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Collection of Short Stories

By Toni A. Star
 

 






 

 

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CHRISTIAN SHORT STORIES WITH MORALS
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Collection of Short Stories

By Toni A. Star
 

Acknowledgements:

My thanks and appreciation go to my wonderful husband who has inspired, enlightened and brightened many a day for me. This book is dedicated to Roy Star, for his love, patience and help in writing it. It is my hope that the words in this small book will bring joy, hope and entertainment to all who read it….

Toni Star

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A Strange Twist to Bon Voyage

Fragrance of Murder! Evangelism

Control

Richard Harris and Camelot Ray’s Deadline

Elizabeth and the Need to Escape

Something in the Darkness Julia and Happiness
Home and Tonia Abundance In-Laws

You Don’t Have to End up Like Jacob Marley

Fulfillment Angry Angela
Rain, Beautiful Rain! Inner Strength Fear of the Dark
Road Trip to Austria Life Family Pet
I Need More Space! Love Tonia, Why Are You So Fearful?
Tending the Vines Personal Peace Fulfillment 2
Break Prosperity With a Twist Gifts of the Spirit
Emily’s End Purposefulness Fading Memory
Janine’s Package of Help A Bird in the Hand A Lonely Country Road
Stephanie’s Special Lock A Stitch In Time Saves Nine Sarah’s Sad State
Strange Postcards Actions Speak Louder Than Words Suspicion
Army Training Camp Turned Into a Super Retreat! At the Pulpit Soul
Sightseeing Aunts and Uncles Thanks Sweetie!
A Smidgen of Hope Spilt Milk The Church’s One Foundation
Little Tiny Life Forms Don’t Cut Off Your Nose, Despite Your Face! The Family Home
Sheila’s Winter of Life Encouragement A Day in the Country

 

 A Strange Twist to Bon Voyage

Sheila never knew the true meaning of bon voyage –have a good trip--until she shouted  “bon voyage” to Steve that cold November day, 1971. Steve had been a close friend and there were rumors that she and Steve would be married around Christmas of that year. But, it was just not meant to be. At least that’s what her grandmother told her one clear October day.

“Sheila, let me say it as plain as I can, Steve is not good enough for you and you know it!” Sheila recalled how her grandmother looked that day and how she felt when she heard those words.

The pain of those words echoed in her brain. Her long, lost love left that cold November day and she knew that she would never see him again. At least that’s what she thought some thirty years ago.

Now, in the autumn of 2005, still single and now retired, she often thought of Steve and how he was doing. Last she heard he had two children and was happily married.  A good friend told her years ago that he still lived in Germany and had a “cushy” job.

Sheila’s life was about to change and the ringing of her phone would usher that change in.

In the kitchen, she was finishing up some dishes, when she heard the ringing. She lifted the receiver and replied, “Hello?”

“Hello? Is this Sheila?” The voice sounded muted but there was a distinctiveness about it that brought back some great memories.

“Hello! Yes this is Sheila…Who is this?”

“Sheila, this is Steve…Do you remember me?”

“Steve, of course I remember you! Where are you?”

“I’m right around the corner at our favorite spot. Do you remember, Dolan’s Kitchen?”

“Of course I do.”

“Can you meet me there in about an hour?”

“Well, yes. Of course I can. I’ll be there around six?”

“Great! Can’t wait to see you!”

Sheila finished up the dishes and then began to get ready. She freshened up, put on a new dress she bought several months ago, fixed her hair and makeup and then sat down to wait.

Imagine, seeing Steve again after all these years. What would he look like? Would he still find her attractive? So many questions were swimming through her mind. Soon, it was 10 till six. She went to the closet, put on her coat and walked out the door.

As she rounded the corner, her anticipation mounted. She opened the store door, walked in and immediately spotted Steve. He looked so handsome, with a turtleneck sweater and dark pants and his blond hair neatly combed. He always did look a little like Cary Grant she thought. He was still so attractive.

She walked up to his table and said, “Hi Steve!” He looked startled but very happy.

“Sit down, Sheila! So good to see you.”

He seemed to be having a hard time focusing. She sat down and immediately knew something was wrong.

When he didn’t look straight into her eyes, she knew that he couldn’t see.

He asked, “Do you remember when you shouted Bon Voyage to me in 1971?

 “Yes, of course….”

“Well, now we both can say it to anyone who knows us….That is if you say you will accompany me on a trip to Europe in December?” As they talked further, she found out that he was now divorced and his children were leading their own lives, somewhere in Germany.…. 

“Yes, I’ll go with you—but separate rooms, of course. And, yes it will be wonderful to say bon voyage to others but “hello again” to each other…How I’ve missed you, Steve!” His being blind didn’t matter at all to Sheila; for they were saying “hello” instead of bon voyage.

 

 

Control

Sheila was losing control, fast! Why didn’t she heed her neighbor’s warning about the man who just moved into the neighborhood two weeks ago? Miranda mentioned in a conversation with her that she thought the new man on the block was acting “odd” at night. He would come out of his house and circle it for several times and then walk back in. Living across the street from him, Miranda had watched his “comings and goings” often, for she liked to keep tabs on new people.

“I’d look out for ‘that one.” Miranda said to Sheila as she nibbled on diet bar, one bright autumn day. “Don’t trust him for anything,” as she finished the bar.

“Why, what’s wrong with him? Sheila asked with a hesitant voice. What has he done to make you suspect him?”

“I can’t put my finger on it but he just seems so controlled, so obsessive. Got an uncle like that and he can’t leave anything alone! Why he even checks his car at night—takes him over an hour—making sure it’s alright—that everything is in place. Gives me the “willies!”

Sheila laughed it off that day and thought her old friend was just being hyper. But now she thought, maybe she should have heeded the warning. Now, he was outside, she saw him--doing God knows what and she was all alone!

It was getting dark outside and hard to see what was going on. All she could see out of her living room window was her neighbor, circling her home and scanning all parts of her home while he was doing it…Round in circles he went, never stopping.

Finally he stopped right in front of her door! He waited and listened and was very quiet. Sheila waited behind the front curtains until she could stand the silence no more…

She hollered out loud—“Who are you and what do you want?”

No sound, just heavy breathing…

And then, just eight words, “I’m so lonely, can I talk to you?”

Stunned, she held her breath and then replied, “Sure you can, if you would just stop your pacing and introduce yourself!”

And so it began…a beautiful and loving friendship that would later turn into marriage and all it took was courage and faith in someone different and a bit strange…But, aren’t we all different and strange sometimes?

 

 

Elizabeth and the Need to Escape

Elizabeth had been a good woman all her life. She went to church regularly every Sunday, was a good wife to her husband, Harold and raised two children with love and kindness.

For most of her life she did what was right; but how did she end up in such a life-threatening condition and why was it this time there was no one to help? Harold, for most of his married life, had been there for her when she needed him but with his new job as Human Resource Director at Benning’s Department Store, he was, well, he was never home!

She sat in a room that was created for protection—everyone in the family called it the “hide-away room,” but to Elizabeth it had become the only place where she felt comfortable and safe, away from everyone and everything!

Her husband and children were away for the weekend and she was all alone; a decision she made weeks ago, saying to the family that she just needed some time alone to think and to pray..…She was quickly finding that that decision was made in haste….

It was the dead of winter and her job as secretary to the local newspaper had ended just two weeks ago. She didn’t want to leave but she had to. A male employee was acting peculiar around her, so she marched into the editor’s office weeks ago and resigned her post.

And, so she sat in that lonely room and waited for the inevitable. She knew deep down that soon “he” would be arriving. It was just a matter of time.

Why was it that most of her adult life she knew that something like this would eventually happen? Had she been too friendly with this man? She didn’t think so; but then again, people acted so strange these days…Faintly, she heard the downstairs door open and later footsteps on the staircase. 

He was in the house, and there was no escape!

She heard the doorknob to the hide-away room turn and soon he began pushing and knocking at the door.

“Let me in, Elizabeth! I just want to talk with you! 

She said nothing; she just sat there shivering with fear, hoping for some kind of miracle….

And then, it happened! The miracle she had been praying for happened and the beautiful thing about it was that the miracle was right inside the room with her and had been there from the very beginning...…She was no longer alone; in fact, she’d never been alone…The Good Shepherd made himself known in spirit and stood at the door, with strength and fierce love; there to protect Elizabeth, one of his sheep.

 

 

Home and Tonia

Tonia loved going home after work; at least, she used to. So much had changed in America, especially when Comrade Hilton took charge in 2020. America was not the same and homes were not homes anymore—they were dwellings, used only to keep out the unwanted.

Tonia had an especially difficult day. New guidelines were being enforced at work, and that left little time for individual thinking and recreation. The government had their hand in everything and it seemed like it was just getting worse.

She hoped that she would not be greeted by officers of the “Protect the Home Front.” That always meant a difficult evening. The worst part of all was that no one knew when they would show.

Pleasant Valley was only 10 minutes away from work. She would soon be home.  Her children, Jan and Bill, ages 10 and 12 would have supper ready for her. At least, she hoped so, for she was “bone tired.”

As she approached the driveway, her home on 7230 Pleasant Valley looked peaceful but everyone knew these days that looks could be deceiving. She didn’t see any sign of her children but that was nothing to be concerned about. Often they were inside cleaning up the house or making dinner.

Pulling into the garage, something unusual caught her eye…It looked like another car or truck had been in the garage, for there was dirt and grim in the shape of worn tires. The children had access to a second garage door opener and sometimes Jeff, her neighbor, would pull in and check on the children for her…Hopefully, that’s all it was….

She got out of the car, lifted her briefcase from the front seat and proceeded to the garage/home side door. What she saw as she opened the door, confirmed her greatest fear---her children had been replaced with robots that looked just like them but she could tell from their eyes that they were not and she knew that soon she too, would be replaced; for it was 2020 and everything was replaceable…. 

Her last thought before she passed out, “Home sweet home?”

 

 

You Don’t Have to End Up Like Jacob Marley!

Excess luggage, we all have it, been held down by it—be it physical luggage--that of carrying too many items when going on vacation --or spiritual luggage—heaving around excess emotional or mental baggage that we do not need or want. This excess baggage reminds me of that famous character, Jacob Marley from Scrooge, with his yards of emotional and spiritual chains. In his earthly and spiritual life he carried around heavy chains of greed, envy, worry, coveting, selfishness and self-importance. There are many other examples of spiritual chains but the good news is we can break those chains forever…

Other examples of excess spiritual luggage might be the fear of success, fear of failure, or the unnecessary fear of what others think of you or the fear of criticism.

Maybe for some, remembering hurtful events long ago such as a rejection from a loved one, losing someone to a slow death such as cancer, or losing a friend because of a far-away move, might be heavy chains of spiritual luggage.

What about the kind of spiritual luggage that makes one feel powerless to improve one’s life, such as overeating, fear of the future or fear of the present? These are special kinds of spiritual baggage that can, over time, cause tremendous physical, mental and spiritual problems—the kind that “hang on” forever and bring serious mental and physical problems to the forefront.

Then there are other kinds of spiritual luggage that keep one in tight, addictive bondage to sin, such as gambling, adultery, backbiting, envying, or coveting what someone else possesses. These examples of spiritual baggage often lead to obsessive and compulsive behavior, that sometimes need professional, psychological help.

It seems that there are many ways one can succumb to lugging around spiritual chains and sadly, many of these chains become parasitic and drain one dry, right up to one’s death. I think most would agree that such “luggage” is a waste of life and a burden on the talents that our Creator has given to us; talents He would like us to use and share.

What can be done to pitch such hurtful, spiritual luggage? Actually, it’s quite simple…Grab your Bible, sit down in a favorite, quiet spot and read.  Then, pray a prayer of understanding and guidance. You will be given an answer and you will be set free of anything that is holding you down, holding you back. And then, you will experience how light you feel without those heavy chains and you’ll be able to see a more hopeful future. You will soon see and experience, possibilities you never dreamed of and success and happiness will be yours!

 

 

Rain, Beautiful Rain!

“Rain, please dear Lord, let it rain! Why did I do it? Why couldn’t I just let it be? Please, dear Lord, don’t let her find out what I’ve done, at least not until it’s rained!

Sheila knew that what she did an hour ago would probably bring repercussions. She knew it in her heart but she went ahead and performed the dirty deed, hoping and praying that rain, that precious fluid, would wash away evidence or perhaps dull the victim’s mind, once the deed was seen.

She could only hope…She could only pray…

What anxious thought or pinprick idea made her do it? Was it jealousy of what that other person had; perhaps an object she craved in her heart for such a long time? Or, was it just plain greed--wanting too much? Or, maybe it was just plain rotten what she did!.

She whispered once again…”Let it rain!”

Only an hour ago, around 10 at night she ventured over to her neighbor’s back yard and took what wasn’t hers, one of Delores’ prized plants and replaced it with a plastic potted plant.  The cover of darkness gave her the opportunity to perform the foul deed. That, and knowing that her neighbor, Delores Springmaiden, retired early on week nights. Delores was a highly respected florist in the small town of Wakefield, Virginia but Sheila thought she was a twerp…Yes, Sheila thought, the secret deed would work out alright, but rain would help it along.

She decided that being nervous and looking out the back window every hour would solve nothing, so she went to her bedroom and got ready for bed and maybe watch some ridiculous thing on TV. Her husband, John Wakefield was already in bed; he had had a long and gut-wrenching day and was happily snoring away.

After she put on her nightgown and robe, she settled in to watch some late night TV. Around one, she dropped off. Too bad she wouldn’t see what was going on in her backyard; the very spot where she planted the stolen item. There was secret movement going on under the cover of darkness and with a drizzle of rain gently coming down….

Around six the next day Sheila woke up and for a few minutes forgot the foul deed she performed the night before…She made some coffee for herself and then it dawned on her what she did.

Carefully and slowly, she opened her back kitchen drapes and saw something frightening! It was Delores Springmaiden, holding the artificial plant that Shelia had placed in Delores’ very own, special rose garden and she was not smiling! With a look that would kill, she threw the plant hard on Shelia’s glass patio door and with a shout “You haven’t seen the last of me, dear neighbor,” she ran back to her home and when she returned, she would bring the “wrath of God” upon Shelia!...

 

 

Road Trip to Austria

I’m an Ohioan, born and bred, a woman who in her teens and early twenties didn’t travel much further from her home than to the next county, and that took all of 20 minutes. That all changed when I met my husband in 1970. I year later we were married and with his military and civilian careers, we began traveling to many parts of the U.S and Europe.

Nothing prepared me for the trip we made to Salzburg, Germany in 1989. Having just arrived in the western part of Germany a week earlier, we were “shell shocked” to the new environment and doing our best to adjust. I thank God that my husband was born in Germany and understood most of the language and customs. We had barely unpacked our clothes and a few household items in a newly found hotel when Roy’s commander told us that a business trip to southern Germany and Austria would be on the agenda.

We had about a day, if that, to prepare for the trip. All we owned stayed behind in that small hotel, where we had just begun to feel comfortable.

It was a cloudy but brisk day when we left. My husband and I pulled out of the hotel around 6:30 in the morning and as we drove up to the starting point, a local gas station, light snow began to fall. About six other cars with families inside greeted us. We all got out of our cars and talked about the trip.  There was excitement and optimism in the air; all of us eager to make the trip. But, there was an ominous moment at the gas station that gave me a “heads up” on what was to follow.

The head man, the one in charge of the trip, was having trouble understanding the map. He turned it to the right, to the left, upside down, right side up—scratching his bald head as he grimaced his face in curious gyrations.  Seconds later, he cried, “Of course, this is so simple…we’ll simply stay on the autobahn until we reach Exit 42 and then drive straight into Salzburg.” Everyone seemed accepting of this except my husband and me. (In my mind, there was something comical but foreboding about the words displayed on the hat he was wearing….The words read, “Don’t ask, just go!”)

The trip started off positive, with the leed car going at a fair pace but that soon changed. It wasn’t long before the lead car began speeding at lightning pace, leaving the rest of us behind, eating his dust. Just as quickly, many of the cars followed his lead, trying to catch up with him. About an hour later the leed car and several others behind, sped off the autobahn and went in a direction that totally confounded my husband and me. My husband pulled over, got off of the autobahn and reached for the map. I’ve never seen him look so confused or mad.

We both looked at the map, and instantly knew that we were lost! Lost in a country we knew little about, with temperatures falling, night approaching and a destination, we knew not where.

After struggling with the map, we finally got on track. It was only by the grace of God we finally arrived at our destination, late by about two hours. Even though we were the last couple to arrive, I think we appreciated the beauty and the opportunity to be there, more. I believe it was the struggling that made our arrival so satisfying and beautiful. By the time we approached Salzburg, it was dark, snowing heavily and our stomachs were growling for food. As we rounded the road, approaching small town of Salzburg, all of the struggle and anger dissolved as we saw the most beautiful sight we had ever seen---the mountains of Austria! Snow capped, they reached high into the sky, as if shouting, “Look at us, for we are close to Heaven!”

As we drove further into the town, our eyes were treated with small, cozy old-fashioned stores, people strolling along on the sidewalk, and a hotel that made our weary hearts, happy. If I live to be a 100, I will never forget how good it felt to see that hotel! It was tall, grand, and old but with grace and beauty that gave us both comfort and joy.

 

 

I Need More Space!

Living in Oklahoma, with so many wide, open spaces, you’d think that more space would be the last thing most women would want but not for Ann Kline. Ann often thought about all the years she lived in Oklahoma—she reckoned around 20. Still, the need for space was often on her mind.

Widowed at 55 and working as a writer, she kept busy most days writing articles for fictional magazines. Her small home provided little opportunity to grow and develop and most likely that’s why she longed for space.

Thank goodness for Lady, her beautiful collie. Why, without Lady, loneliness and depression would swallow her up...

It was on a beautiful fall day that Ann went searching for a bigger place to live. She decided to travel down a lonely side rode, just five miles away. She remembered seeing a lovely “cottage” type home for sale several weeks ago. She remembered it because in Oklahoma, that kind of house was rare.

Just nine o’clock in the morning and she thought to herself as she drove along, that she’d never seen fall leaves as pretty as they were that day…

“Ah, she thought. There it is! Just as pretty as I remembered…” The house was blue in color, with white paint framing the doors and window panes…So peaceful looking and with more than enough space for her and Lady.

She pulled into the driveway and seconds later someone came out and walked toward her. It was an older man and he looked and walked as if he were happy to see her.

As she got out of the car he yelled, "Well, hi there, little lady. Can I help you with something?”

“Yes, I’m interested in your home. Looks like it’s still for sale. Can I see it?”

“Why sure. Come on in.”

As soon as she walked in, she knew it was for her. The beige paint on the walls, the way the living room edged into the dining room. Why, it was perfect!

It wasn’t long before a deal was made and the closing of the house, completed..

About a month later she and lady moved in. For several weeks, everything was perfect and then something strange happened that changed everything…

Close to Thanksgiving, a moving van pulled into a home about 200 feet down the street. With only 10 homes on that lonely country rode, here was someone moving in, and so close to Thanksgiving!

For weeks she didn’t see “hide nor hare” of anyone and then five days before Christmas, a stranger came to her door.

She opened the door and knew that her lonely days were over; for right before her was an older, good-looking man and standing right beside him wagging his tail happily, was a beautiful male collie! 

 


Tending the Vines

Every morning he would tend his vines; it was something he did everyday. Some days he would find the vines growing peacefully, maturing the way they should. Other days, the vines would be jumbled up, some falling away from the main line or dry from not enough nourishment.

Today, the middle of July, he was once again checking out the vines. This morning he found some startling changes and he knew that something unusual had happened.

The first row of vines looked good, almost perfect. The second row looked well but a bit stressed. It was the third row of vines that caught and held his attention, for they were dry, withered and on the verge of dying. He had to do something soon or the vines in row three would be lost forever.

As he made his preparations of water, cords and careful handling, he recalled the day when he planted all the rows of vines. Each row started out the same, careful planting, careful watering and watching and a prayer for each one that it would grow healthy, strong and able to withstand all kinds of weather conditions.

Why is it, he thought, that some of the vines did well all of the time, while others needed constant attention and tending to? It was almost like people, he thought. Some people do well, no matter what, while others seemed to need constant attention, approval and help.

Maybe the troubled vines in row three were like that because they, like some people, “chose” to go their own way instead of relying on a help from a higher power?

He thought more about this and the more he mulled it over in his mind, he came to the conclusion that it wasn’t his fault if some of the vines didn’t work out well. Maybe it happened simply because of “time, chance and circumstance.”

Still he cared for all of the vines. He decided to stay still for awhile and pray for those vines that were stubborn and wanted to go their own way.

He prayed,

“Dear Lord, please help me to be patient with the vines that are often troubled and sick; for I know you want them to do well and to be healthy. Maybe they just need a little more guidance. Help me to be more attentive to them and help them to know how much good you want for them.  Thank you, Father; for you always understand.”

  
 

Break

It was Christmas 2007 and everything in Janice’s life was a mess. She and her husband of 10 years had just separated, her family lived 100 miles away, her job as dental assistant was going nowhere and even her golden retriever, “Ollie” seemed indifferent to cuddling and walks in the park. And, to top it off, she was getting nowhere with her diet—eating three grapefruits a day before meals! Who was the brain surgeon that thought that plan would work! How many diets did she stop and start, only to find out that they were nothing but a scam…

What was a woman like Janice to do with such a spiraling downside of a life and why was all of this happening to her?  Janice sat at her dining room table, with hands on her face and elbows planted firmly on the table and moaned, “If only someone would help me, show me the way—how to make my life better! There has just got to be a way out of this!”

She sat there, hunched over and depressed for a good 10 minutes and then something unusual happened..

There was a knocking on her back kitchen door. Actually, it sounded like a gentle tapping. Her curiosity stirred, she opened the door. For a few seconds it was hard for her to comprehend who/what was there.

It was a little boy of about three or four and he moaned softly, “I’m so cold, can’t find mommy, can you help me?”

“Of course, come in.” The little tyke walked in, shivering and scarred. He had on a jumpsuit outfit, with only a light sweater to keep him warm.

“Who are you and how did you get here? Can you remember what happened, or who you were with?”

He replied, “Oh, I’m Henry and I was with mommy but she left me and went into a big store. What should I do? Can you help me find my mommy?”

The conversation went on for, what seemed a long time and then…

Suddenly, she blinked her eyes, shook her head, straightened up in her chair and found that it was all just a dream, a strange but wonderful dream.  She went over to the kitchen door, looked out the window and saw nothing…except for a few small footprints in the snow, leading up to her back door..…Days later, more strange but wonderful things began to happen. Her job, for reasons she couldn’t understand, became more enjoyable—her employer-- more helpful, her dog began wagging his tail wildly when she walked into a room, her husband came back two days later--they resolved their differences and months later she became pregnant with her first child.

You guessed it, nine months later to the day, she had a baby boy and she called him Henry –Henry number 2!

  

 

Emily’s End

The end of Emily’s life was coming and she didn’t have a clue to what was heading her way. At 25, she had everything to live for; so there was no fear, no dwelling on death.

Emily had just started a new job as auditor of a law firm--Jacob & Jacob, Inc. She was hired practically before the Interview began. Both men—brothers-- thought that with her attractive appearance and comprehensive background, they need not look any further.

She loved her job and her new romance with Jack Nobles was looking like marriage more and more everyday.

So, there was no worry of death—only a life filled with joy and promise.

It was March 2008 and she had just finished a hard but fulfilling day of work at Jacob & Jacob. As she pulled out of the company garage and on to the main highway, she felt a sense of accomplishment and happiness. She was especially happy because she was meeting Jack for dinner at their favorite Eatery….”The Robin’s Nest.”

But, Emily wouldn’t make it to The Robin’s Nest, for someone was tracking and planning her death.

She was just five miles from The Robin’s Nest when someone behind her pulled up close and pushed at her bumper. The force was so sudden and unexpected that Emily almost lost control of the car.

Then, another shove from behind, this one with much more force. It only took a couple of seconds and she sailed deep into a ravine, spinning out of control--until there was nothing but darkness. 

Emily died instantly and the person in the other car smiled a Cheshire cat smile and sped away; without a bruise, without a conscience.

Emily’s thoughts earlier that day were filled with hope and promise; but within seconds everything that she had hoped and prayed for, gone!

A jealous sister smiled that Cheshire smile all the way home and into the arms of Emily’s unfaithful husband.

 

 

Janine’s Package of Help

Janine needed help in the worst way but it would be a “cold day” before she’d ask for it. After all, whenever she needed or asked for help in the past, there was never anyone around.

Living in the outskirts of Texas where nothing can be seen except flat, dry ground and an occasional car or van driving by, could be downright tedious! And, the sad part was that those few and far between cars and vans were often the highlights in Janine’s life and that could be mighty devastating to someone so alone, like Janine.

Well, like it not she needed help today and as far as she could tell, it was unlikely anyone would be coming along—including relatives, to help save the day..

Janine had just gone through the last stages of menopause, divorced her husband of twenty years and saw the last of her children leave, just two months ago. She was now alone, with just her computer and books to keep her company.

It was hard to ask for help but if she didn’t get some kind of emotional assistance soon, she knew her life might soon be over.

She sat at her desk, surrounded by mounds of papers and folders, a large computer and through it all, looked out her small bedroom window and sighed, “When did this awful depression begin and why didn’t I see it coming?” Of course she did see it coming with the divorce and children leaving; she was simply in denial.

She sat there looking out the window for about twenty minutes and then her cell phone rang…

Who could that be? She seldom received phone calls in the middle of the day. It probably was a salesman; after all, who else would call in the afternoon?

She picked up the receiver and a deep voice answered, “Did you get my message?”

“Who is this and what message are you talking about?”

“ My email and you don’t need to know my name. Well, gotta go. Check you out, later?”

Before she could reply, the caller hung up and she was left wondering what was going on.

Minutes later, she checked her email and sure enough there was a message from Steve.

She opened the message and it said, “Hi Janine! Hope you’re alright. I’m sending you a package and it’s something that will help you.”

“What a strange email! I’m not even going to dignify it with a response. Just a quack, I’m sure.”

The following day around eleven in the morning, a UPS man came to her door and knocked.

“Hi ma’am. Got a package for you.”

She signed for it, closed the door and opened the package. It was big and it took time to open it. Underneath all of the layers of wrapping she finally found the object, small and at the very bottom…

“This is exactly what I need! But, how in the world did he know what I needed?”

Inside the package was something tiny, almost unnoticeable but it was exactly what Janine needed….Wrapped in a beautiful gold cloth, inside the small package laid a cross and inscribed on the back was written, “To Janine, with love from Jesus, via Steve, my disciple.”

   

 

Stephanie’s Special Lock

Stephanie had a “thing” about locks. She didn’t trust them, know how to use them and had a bad experience once, when trying to exit a building.

But, that was then and this is now. A different Stephanie and a different outlook on life! Life was good for “Steph” as many often called her. Working in IT had elevated her status in the last year and she was thankful for the upgrade and thankful for her friendly co-workers.

She now received respect from her peers and excellent pay, to boot! Life was good, she thought. Nothing could go wrong!

That is until she came home that evening around eight and tried to unlock her front door. Because of a break-in last week when someone stole her jewelry and cash, she had new locks installed. So, she knew that evening there might be a delay getting in, opening the new lock. No problem, she thought. Locks were meant to protect and secure; she would simply be calm and take her time..

She placed the key inside the lock and slowly and carefully turned the key. Nothing happened and the key got stuck about half way. She tried again; still nothing. She would not be deterred or become impatient. These things just take time. So, she tried again. Once again…nothing.

She was losing her patience and the November air was beginning to chill her body. She had no choice; no relatives lived nearby and her friends were out “bar-hopping” so she was all alone.

She took a deep breath and then placed the key inside the lock and turned. Wonderfully, it worked! She gently pushed open the door and walked inside. It was dark so she reached for a table lamp and turned it on.

What she saw in the living room was beyond description! Standing by the fireplace was a beautiful, large cross. There was a note on top of the mantle next to it which read, “Know about the break-in, wanted you to have this.” It was signed, “Your friend and Helper, Jesus.”

She smiled and whispered, “You always know what I need, even before I do! Thank you!

 

 

Strange Postcards

Tonya loved receiving postcards from her friend Linda, who now lived in Austria. The postcards were always colorful, upbeat and interesting. Linda moved overseas just six months ago and had been sending postcards regularly to her friend, Tonya.

It was in the fall of 2004 when Tonya began noticing something strange about Linda’s postcards. The postcards weren’t as cheerful as the usual ones she sent. They now had a dark overtone to them, not just with the pictures but with the message. Maybe she was just feeling out of sorts, Tonya thought.

Then towards Thanksgiving the postcards slowed down and soon Tonya was receiving only a couple a month. One particular postcard showed a castle with a cemetery in the back. It was dreary looking and the castle had a familiar eerie tone to it…like she had seen it before.

Christmas was just five days away when she received the strangest postcard of all. It was clearly handmade with a small insert of a picture on it. Linda’s face appeared on the postcard, along with the man she lived with. Tonya remembered Jon, for he was at the  airport that day, traveling with Tonya. They were happy and excited with the future before them.

Then Tonya remembered something else that was very disturbing. Jon had made eye contact with her that day at the airport and it was not the normal kind of well-wishing eye contact. There was a menacing look, the kind that forebode bad things.

Then, right before Christmas Tonya received the last postcard she would receive from her  friend. On it was a fuzzy picture of Jon outside their home in Germany and he was digging a very deep hole. Tonya was puzzled and frightened. Surely this strange and unnerving...

Then, for several months nothing …until one cold day in March. She heard a knock at the door—actually it was more of a tapping, the kind of tapping an insolent bird might make, wanting to get in.  She walked slowly to the door, opened it and saw a very happy looking, Jon. There was no sign of her friend and Jon appeared eager to walk through the door.

Inside Jon’s briefcase was one last postcard—a postcard intended for Tonya-- and on it was written, “To all my friends and family, have left for Europe with Jon” …Won’t be back.

 

 

Army Training Camp Turned Into A Super Retreat!

It was August 1984 and my husband had just learned from his Army commander that he would be required to attend a military training camp and was also told that he could bring along his wife. We lived in Ohio and the training camp was in Michigan. It was a long drive---about four or five hours and so we began that journey, early, one warm August morning. We arrived late that morning and were quickly assigned a small cottage, about 200 feet from Lake Erie.

When I say that it was small, I mean small! We had about three rooms with just the basic furniture and accessories but somehow it didn’t matter because our surroundings were so beautiful and peaceful.

Seagulls, fresh air, warm waves rushing in and quiet greeted us that warm August day. I think what impressed me the most was the calm and simplicity of that area.

In the past 15 years my husband and I had gone through many turbulent military moves and we looked forward to the respite awaiting us….Unfortunately the respite would be for me. My husband had to perform military maneuvers and meetings during the day. We did, however, meet for lunch and dinner each day and he was able to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, too.

During the day, while my husband was involved in training, I was left behind to enjoy and discover the beauty and quiet of the camp and Lake Erie. Lake Erie with its sandy beaches, seagulls, sandpipers and fish swimming by, beckoned me everyday to come out and enjoy the beauty. There was a small market about 100 feet from our cabin and most everyday I would walk in and pick up some postcards or needed groceries. It was small, quaint and very old-fashioned and it blended into the surrounding environment, like a beautiful painting fits into a predetermined wall color scheme...

I think what I liked most about the small camp was the peace and quiet, the opportunity to get closer to God. Also, it was an opportunity to retreat and review my life.  I particularly loved the sounds of the waves rushing in at night. It was a most comforting and calming feeling. So consistent, so ever-present; the sound of those waves was almost like hearing the Creator say, "Be still and know that I am the Lord thy God. This peace is for you, for awhile. Later, I will bring changes that will make you happy but there will be challenges, too.  Enjoy this peace, for it will prepare you for what is to come. But, no matter what, I will be with you, always.”

Now, whenever I experience that kind of peace I make the most of it because right after that peaceful experience years ago, our lives changed drastically—we moved to Oklahoma, followed by a stay in Germany, a stint in Virginia and then back to our home state, Ohio. Most of these moves were good filled with opportunities for growth and happiness but there were some that brought challenges that tried our patience and faith.

It’s still not over for my husband and me; we are in our late 50’s, live in Pennsylvania and our lives continue to evolve and grow. My husband has a good job and I am going for my master’s in Business and doing some freelance writing. We’re in kind of a “holding point” right now; one might say a kind of retreat. So, because of our past experience with retreats and “lulls” I’m preparing myself for good things and possibly some challenges. But, I’m not afraid, for I know no matter what—good or bad—our Lord will be with us.

So, whenever you experience or face a retreat, enjoy it, for it will give you a peaceful respite before changes for the good, come your way. And remember, all of life is a process-first the peace and reflection, then preparation and then the “going through it.” Be wise and follow the peace He gives to you.

 

 

Sightseeing

I always thought sightseeing was for vacations or new areas of interest. This all changed when I came down with the flu several years ago. I was in bed for almost a month and there were times when I thought I would die. As I lay in bed, unable to do much of anything except feel sick and sorry for myself, I put my mind in gear and went down memory lane and began recalling all the beautiful and unforgettable sights my husband and I had seen in our 34 years of marriage.

Being a military spouse of 20 years, I found that I had many memories to draw upon. Europe and Germany first came to mind. When I thought of Germany I recalled the delicious food and the Guesthouses we went to, the small but quaint stores we used to shop, and the narrow roads that took us to villages so beautiful and lovely; words are inadequate to describe. The beauty of the countryside was filled with the aroma of flowers, bushes and trees. Closing my eyes and recalling Germany’s beauty, I could see it all again. I could visualize, too, the people in the villages dressed in European garb, going about their errands, rushing to the different shops, attending to the daily needs.

Then I recalled a different memory when we lived in Oklahoma. It was sparse and sometimes dull, but with a unique beauty that often caught one off-guard; a hominess and charm that is hard to describe. I think sometimes the simplicity and plainness of an area can gently take one back to another time—one filled with goodness and decency; a journey that is refreshing and wonderful…

Now, I think of sightseeing as not just of visiting and vacations but one that is filled with memories both sweet and bitter--a kind of time machine where one can sight-see anytime, anywhere…..

Perhaps I can now say that sightseeing is not just for the summer traveler but a kind of “twilight-time-zone” where you can sightsee to your heart’s content!

 

 

A Smidgen of Hope

Sarah was in the fall of her life and experiencing one of the worst winters she had ever seen! Being 62 was not easy, especially without her husband of 40 years, Ben. So many were ready and eager to take advantage of her declining years and sizable bank account…

In the last 10 years of her life, Sarah developed a negative attitude about life. With her husband gone and no relatives to turn to for comfort and support, she grieved and was angered that she alone had to solve problems and confront people she’d rather not look at, let alone deal with.

It was on such a day that Sarah found spring—the kind of spring that lingers and eventually finds a home in an aching and lonely heart. Funny, it didn’t come from inheriting a million dollars, though that would have been fine with Sarah. No, it came in a tiny form…So tiny, she almost missed it that cold, November morning.

The tiny sparrow was resting all by itself on her window pane that cold morning and began pecking at her window sill. So insistent was the bird that Sarah had to go to the window to see what all the racket was about.

The sparrow sat there, perched, looking through her window in quiet stillness staring at Sarah. Sarah, in return, began to stare back. The sparrow looked at her as if to say, “Hey, it’s me! Remember me? Winter’s almost over, Hon, and spring is on its way!”

The bird kept looking at Sarah and seemed to be growing a smile on that weather-torn beak and even though the moment lasted only seconds, Sarah felt herself straightening up, smiling and felt a smidgen of hope swelling up inside of her. She was happy again, after many long years and all because of a little bird she later referred to as spring!

   

 

Little Tiny Life Forms

The little life form began its life-- happy, positive, full of life. So much hope was in this "live" thing that it didn’t sense anything bad happening to it; just good things and a full life ahead…

For months, only growth and happiness for the “little tyke” then something awful happened. The little thing began to slow down in its growing.  At first it was small things that hindered its growth such as other creatures not being there to encourage and help and offer nourishment. It was, as I say, small at first. 

Then, the little thing was left all alone for long periods of time. That’s when the little thing began to shrink in size.

A glorious day came for the little tyke when someone…someone caring began to bring nourishment, love and caring to the “growing thing.” More attention was given to its needs, guidance was given on how to grow, life lessons were offered on how to develop into a positive and caring thing and soon changes began to happen..

Then, the little thing noticed that it was growing taller, that it was changing from an ugly, unkempt thing to a beautiful piece of nature. This made the little growing thing happy and happiness made it grow even more…

It wasn’t long before the little thing was growing into a big, beautiful and wondrous creature and its Creator was becoming happier and more fulfilled! 

Oh, there would be stumbling blocks along the way—ignorance, indifference, some discrimination but he would keep going, because that’s what the Creator wanted.

It seemed that nothing would derail the Creator’s plans…

Then, one bright fall day the little thing no longer had to put up with abuse and indifference from anyone, for it had become what the master planned—the most gorgeous, beautiful spruce tree in the United States and it had just been chosen to be uprooted and placed on the White House lawn, for all Americans to enjoy…

The little tree had finally arrived at its destination and it was proud and happy…Oh, so happy! It seems that plants, like people, will turn out fine—with a little help from the “creator.”

 

 

Sheila’s Winter of Life

Shelia was facing the winter of her life. In her early 60’s, she had seen much of the world—Germany, Austria and many parts of the US. Alone now, her husband dead of cancer just two years ago, she faced the winter of 2006 with dread and anxiety. With no husband to help shield her from the reclusiveness of winter and its challenges, she looked ahead to those long, cold months and shivered deep inside.

Where did the time go, she thought. Why it just seemed like yesterday when she and Ray, were young, married and excited with life’s offerings. What happened? Where did it all go? Why did it have to go so fast? Growing old was no picnic, she thought. Oh, how she longed to be at least 10-15 years younger….

With no children to console her, most of her family dead and gone, she pondered what would she do with the rest of her life. She did have her writing and of course, her trusted and loving collie, Lady. Lady was such a comfort, always there and such a calming presence. But, she was just a dog…not a real human being.

Living in a small apartment helped because there weren’t many responsibilities or challenged to meet.  And, having that small car of hers parked outside the apartment building was another comfort; one her husband bought her on her birthday, not long before he died.

“My, how slow February goes!” she thought. And, how depressing that her husband wouldn’t be there with her to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They always did something special on that day…The aloneness began to fall upon her again. Sometimes it felt like a blanket being put upon her; first her feet, then legs and then her upper body. She felt so alone, so sad. 

Not more than five minutes later, her phone range. “Who could that be? she thought. It’s only nine in the morning; must be a wrong number.”

She picked up the phone and with trepidation asked, “Hello?”

Someone on the other line answered, “Hello, is this….?”

“Yes, this is she. Who’s calling, please?”

“This is Michael Poundstone. Do you remember me?”

She gasped, tried to contain her feelings and answered, “Michael? The boy I dated from Lincoln Senior High School?” Her mind was a maze of memories—strolling hand in hand with Michael on warm summer days and cool fall nights. Such passion they had for each other!

“That’s the one! I just heard about you and where you lived from George at work and he gave me your phone number. I didn’t know that you lived so close to where I am.  I just had to call you and see how you’re  doing. So, how are you?”

“I’m fine but I’m stunned to hear from you. It’s been over forty years and we didn’t end well, if you remember?” Indeed, they didn’t end well. He chose another girl, the last six months of senior high and she was left with a broken heart that took a year to heal. He gave her no explanations, just left her….It was not an easy thing to forgive.

Then he asked the question she feared but yet longed to hear….”Can I see you sometime? Would love to talk with you. Been such a long time….I know I did you wrong and there’s no excuse, except to say that Linda pushed all the right buttons and well,…my hormones just went nuts…But you know what? Our marriage lasted only five years and I’m still healing…”

She paused for what felt like a lifetime and then replied in her old high school, sarcastic way….”Well, let me check my calendar….I do have some space next Thursday…”

Laughing out loud, he replied…”Why shucks, ma’am, I do believe I can do that!”

What followed in the ensuing months was the continuing love affair of Shelia and Michael. Only this time there was a promise of a happy ending, or so they thought.  Isn’t it good to know that Shelia and Michael, like all of us, can’t see the future?

Unbeknownst to them both, inside Shelia a cancer was steadily growing….But those three years they spent together would be the happiest of their lives.  

 

 

Fragrance of Murder

It was the first thing that hit her as she opened the door. That fragrance of his, that awful pungent odor that was distinctly his! Aware that he had already been there or might still be in the room, she opened the door slowly and quietly. 

It was dark inside his apartment. Not a night light or small lamp anywhere! It was good that she always carried a small flashlight inside her purse. Carefully she reached into her purse to a small crevasse and pulled it out. With her canvas shoes, shoulder bag, flashlight and dark clothing, she ambled her way though the living room, and then into the small dining room.

As she approached the dining room she smelled a different odor, one that was more repulsive than the first one. She began to feel an anxiety attack beginning at the base of her neck, traveling quickly down her spine. Not now, she thought. I don’t need an anxiety attack now!

Sandy was too trusting, especially with someone like Peter Linsburg. How many times had she been warned of him? Too many, she thought.

Slowly, she walked through the dining room and with her trusty flashlight reached the bathroom. As she carefully aimed the flashlight on the bathroom floor, she thought she heard the front door open.

Before she could see the tragedy lying on the bathroom floor before her, someone was breathing down her back… 

Quickly, she spun around just in time to see an unexpected face. Too bad she didn’t recall what Sandy said to her just two days ago about Margo and her obsessive jealousy with Peter...

 

 

And Now, Something Special--Richard Harris and Camelot

Richard Harris, star of Camelot and Harry Potter and now deceased, was and is someone who affected my life in a very positive and uplifting way.  In the late 60’s I first viewed the classic movie, “Camelot.”  Starring with him as Queen Guinevere was Vanessa Redgrave.  What impressed me the most about him was his vulnerability, good looks, positive portrayal of a king, and his inspirational dialogue.  Harris, as King Arthur created the Round Table, where all knights could come together in peace and where no one would be at the head of the table because he created the “round” table.

King Arthur was a doomed character basically because he didn’t trust his instincts and his conscience.  He simply didn’t want to believe the worst of anyone, particularly Lancelot his friend and Guinevere.  When Lancelot brought to life a dying man, he won Guinevere’s heart and loyalty.  It was at this critical junction in the movie when you knew there was no going back.  King Arthur lost his kingdom, his wife, his good friend Lancelot and his dream of Camelot.

It is in the final scene where King Arthur is preparing for his last battle.  His wife has been placed in a nunnery, Lance is gone and all looks bleak.  Suddenly from deep in the forest comes a young lad.  He talks with the lad and the boy starts talking about “knights of the round table,” “might for right,” “justice for all.”  King Arthur feels that with this boy, his dream of Camelot and the round table can go on, even after his death.  He is delirious with joy that his dream might continue and shouts something to his friend, Penny.  His joy that Camelot and the round table might go on are reflected in his voice when he shouts to his good friend, “Some of the drops sparkle, Penny.  Some do sparkle!”  It was a beautiful moment.

When all looks lost around me, I do what King Arthur did, searching for that “sparkle.” Seeking that “sparkle of life” has kept me going and helped me pursue my goals in life.  When my grandma died I looked for that sparkle and found it when my new niece was born.  I’ve seen that sparkle when visiting the elderly at my local nursing home.  The love from nurses to the patients and the patients to nurses is brighter than any diamond I’ve ever seen.  The sparkle in my husband’s eye when he found that there was hope for his immune disorder, brought light to both of us.  Finding sparkle in a friend’s forgiveness, can bring great peace. Nothing shines brighter than hope, that expectation of something beautiful beyond the storm.

King Arthur, Camelot, you and me.  “We’re all but a drop in the deep blue ocean of mankind.” But, some of those drops sparkle, my friend.  “Some do sparkle!”

 

Something in the Darkness

I froze, crouched close to the wall; there was something out there—I had definitely heard it move in the darkness.  I was regretting our move to the country.  The log cabin we bought was beautiful and close to Lake Calm but remote from everything and everyone else.  Getting away from the city and relatives was smart but perhaps living too far into the country was not wise. Ray, my husband, was fast asleep, snoring. I swear, the man never heard anything! In 32 years of marriage, it was always me who heard noises in the night!  I stood still, close to the wall, listening.

Nothing!  I didn’t hear a sound!  Must have been my imagination. Ray always said that I should have been a writer.  My obsessive thoughts always ran wild. Maybe he was right.  Besides, I did watch a scary movie, hours earlier.  Shouldn’t have done it but I did.  Well that’s got to stop, I thought. No more creepy movies!

I went back to bed and started to relax.  I was tired and needed sleep.  I had just calmed down, when I heard that noise again.  This time it was louder, more distinct. I rose up in bed, straining to hear.  This time I heard a clip…clop. Our bedroom was right behind our screened-in porch.  From our window, noises on the sidewalk and porch were louder, the echo clear and strong.  In the last few mornings I heard deer walk on the sidewalk, looking for food.  They had become accustomed to us because we often left them food, by the garage.  Had to be a deer, I thought.  Just a harmless deer!

I lay back down.   I began my deep breathing exercises, my nerves were acting up.  The day had been unusually hectic, with housework, impatient relatives and searching for a job. I had put my application in for a teacher’s assistant position.  It took over an hour, in a cramped, dusty room with an indifferent, school secretary.  Next week I would know if I had the job.  I was praying for it.  Not having any children of my own, it would be a work of love.

Ray continued snoring.  I strained to hear for sounds, his snoring was so loud!

I must have nodded off when another noise woke me up!  This time the sound was closer, as if something or someone was trying to look inside.  I raised my head from my pillow. 

Click, Clop…Click…Clop…. It sounded like deer hooves.  Slow steady….Click…Clops.

And yet, it sounded a bit human.  It sounded like shoes with clicks on them.   Kids in the 50’s and 60’s used to wear heel clicks to be “cool.”  My boyfriend in high school wore them and you could always hear him coming.  “Clip…Clop”…. I’d say to myself, here comes Steve!  Sometimes I wore them too, just to fit in. The fad, like all fads, lasted for a while and then was gone.

The more I thought about the heel clicks the more I realized that’s what it was!  The very thought of someone outside of our home in the dead of night, with those clicks seemed ridiculous!  The clicks would be a dead give-away that someone was there--outside! And yet, nothing was impossible these days! 

My mind traveled back in time. Steve lived about four miles away, was married and had several children.  He was happy, so I was told years ago.  There was a time, when we were going together that he obsessed over me.  Could it be that he was here, tonight, longing to see me again?  He used to be so obsessed with my face.  He was always comparing pictures of me to pictures of women in newspapers and magazines.  He thought I was so beautiful, that no one came close to my beauty.  I was glad he couldn’t see my face now.  I was remembering, too, that Steve and my Dad didn’t get along. One night Dad almost put him through our living room window he was so mad at him.  Surely, Steve had forgiven and forgotten; it happened so long ago.

I continued to listen.  My imagination was running wild and my pulse raced.  Then, I thought, Steve had long forgotten me and was probably in bed snoring away, just like Ray.  I closed my eyes and took deep breaths.

That’s when I heard another--  Clip…Clop!  This time there was no doubt in my mind. It was those shoes, those damn shoes!  Now, I was scared!  Someone with those clips on their shoes was outside, walking up and down the sidewalk!  But why?  I couldn’t move, I was frozen with terror.  Steve, it had to be Steve!  But for what reason?  Was he was seeking revenge?  What was worse, Ray still was snoring!  I wanted to nudge him awake but I couldn’t.  I was too scared!  I was afraid that Ray would wake up---like he often did—nervous and talking out loud.  I didn’t need his loud and nervous ways now.  I just had to remain quiet and calm.

I don’t know why it took so long but I finally saw that the bathroom night-light was on and giving off a lot of light, spilling into our bedroom.  Whoever was out there could probably see our shadow forms from the patio window.  I walked to the bathroom; almost tripped, and turned off the light.

That insidious Clip Clop noise returned and then, all of a sudden, it stopped!

I heard the outside patio door open.  There was a creaking sound and then I heard footsteps.  I strained to hear that clip clop sound but I didn’t. It sounded like someone was tiptoeing.  Then, I heard the knob to the front door turn.  I locked that door, didn’t I?  I usually did but sometimes I forgot.  Dear God, I did lock the door?  I was sweating bullets and Ray lay there snoring.  What should I do?

Minutes later, I walked toward the living room and peaked around the corner to the kitchen.  I saw the knob on the front door turn.  I held my breath.  There was a heavy vase about five feet from where I stood, close to the kitchen.  I got a hold of it and waited.

Slowly, the kitchen door opened.  With no light in the kitchen I couldn’t see who it was.  Someone walked in, oblivious to me standing there.  He kept walking and I held the vase closer to my body.  I backed away about two feet, reaching for the hall light. 

Carefully, I turned on the light.  As I walked closer to the kitchen I saw a human form, Steve!  Startled, he looked at me.  Dressed in black, like he used to, he smiled that sinister “I got you now, Babe” look.

By that time, Ray woke up and came out to the hallway and said, “What the hell is going on?”

Ray was groggy—half asleep and half awake.  Steve inched closer and Ray yelled, “Who are you and what are you doing in our house? 

Steve smiled and said, “You don’t know me but your wife does, don’t you, Tonia?  I see that you’ve changed, Tonia.  You’re no longer beautiful but I’m taking you with me, anyway.  If you don’t give me any trouble, Tonia, I won’t hurt your husband.”

“Get out of here! Ray yelled.  You’re not doing anything with my wife, now or later!  Tonia, come closer!”  I went to him and we held each other tight. The vase in my hand was shaking but I held it tight.

Steve stepped closer and I could feel Ray shaking.  Ray was not a strong or brave man but he was my “Babe” and he loved me no matter how I looked, scars and all.

Steve approached me and began caressing me with a black scarf.  I pulled away from him and Ray let go of me so I could hit Steve. I was the braver of the two, like it or not and besides I had the vase! I lifted the vase as high as I could and slammed it hard on Steve’s head!  This only made him angry and vengeful.  Bleeding, he grabbed me by the neck and began choking me. Ray began pounding Steve hard with his fists.  Ray hit him so hard, it scared me.  Steve backed off and ran for the door.  He couldn’t leave fast enough, coward that he was.  Before he left he yelled, “You haven’t seen the last of me, Tonia."  I know where you live and I’ll be back for you!  You think you’re ugly now, you haven’t seen anything!  You’re going to pay for the way you and your father treated me!  No one treats me like that and gets away with it! No one!”

Not if I can help it, I thought. “I’ll find out where you live, I screamed, ‘and there won’t be a next time!”  ‘That was 20 years ago, Steve.  Get a life!  And Steve, I could care less about what you think of me! Ray loves me for who I am, dirtball!”   It felt good to say those words.  Steve had been a jerk from the first day I met him.

Ray and I called his bluff and now he was gone! He was a nightmare and I was glad he was out of our lives and out of our home!

Two months later I saw something in the paper that frightened and made me sad.  It was an article in the newspaper about a stalker who was so obsessed with a woman that he killed her.  The policeman who found her said that “he’d never seen anything like it in his 20 years on the force.”  She was brutally murdered, as in a frenzy.  I found out that the obsessed man was Steve!  He did to that poor woman what he tried to do to me that night.  Thank God for that heavy vase and my dear sweet Ray---snoring and all!  The nightmare was finally over.   

 

 

Abundance

Trudy had an abundance of talent, happiness and purpose in her life. She was an excellent writer, had two degrees she was proud of and a husband she loved, dearly. With all of this abundance, you’d think that Trudy would be happy, wouldn’t you?

But, Trudy was very unhappy. You see, she had an abundance of something that was killing her—and there didn’t seem to be anything that she could do to stop it….You see, Trudy was vastly overweight…

Most of her life she carried around about forty pounds too much. She had been made fun of, had difficulty finding and keeping a job, her friends and family had given up on her and so she consoled herself everyday with even more food, staying inside most of the time, reading a lot and thinking of her past successes of writing and school.

She still wrote but often the depression was so bad, that she couldn’t think of anything positive and encouraging to write. 

And then, something wonderful happened that changed everything!

She found an online Christian Group called Christians for Friendship and found some great Christian people that she could share with. Many of the emails were uplifting and encouraging and it wasn’t long before some of the writers were helping with her weight problem. A “buddy system” was developed where several of the writers wrote to her daily and asked how she was doing. She began keeping a journal of what she ate and took up walking on a daily basis.

It wasn’t long before Trudy was finding the motivation to do some of the things she hadn’t done in years –such as going back to church, doing some volunteer work at a local hospital, and visiting friends and family. She found to her surprise that food was no longer a top priority.

Several months later, around Halloween, she got on the scales as she usually did, the first part of the week, and found to her great surprise, that had reached her goal! Instead of weighing 190 pounds, she now weighed in at 145!

Needless to say, she was abundantly happy, her husband was proud of her accomplishment and life was just beginning.

 

 

Fulfillment

Janice finally felt fulfilled when she received her doctorate degree from Capella University in the fall of 2005.. She had finally arrived! What more could she ask for—a beautiful home, grown children off on their own and successful in Ohio, a husband who adored her and now at long last, her doctor’s degree?!

She should feel happy, fulfilled and filled with joy but here she was in her very private bedroom and sobbing her heart out…Life could be so cruel, she thought. Why was this “thing” happening to her, why did she feel so depressed and in despair when she should be feeling “on top of the world?”

Dr. McMillen had given her the bad news yesterday, just a day after she received her degree! What timing, she thought. A cancer, he said. A small cancer had been slowly growing on the tip of her uterus. There was hope, but it was small and fading, like a candle’s glow, almost gone. 

Her degree would be useless, with the cancer. Was all she did, done in vain?

She lay on the bed, worrying and wondering what kind of future—or maybe there wouldn’t be any kind of future for her, when she heard a voice whispering…..”Be not afraid, Janice I am here with you…”

This “presence” filled her with a calmness she had never felt before and somehow, some way, she knew that things would be alright.

She returned to her Dr’s office for a test result two days later and he gave her such a look of puzzlement, that it stunned her right down to her bones!

He said, ‘Janice, I can’t understand this; it’s not logical, it’s not how it goes…but the cancer—all of it—is gone! You are free, clear and healthy..”

Janice replied, “I know what has happened!…Christ has forgiven my sins and has set me free of this illness. Praise God! Now, I can use my degree as nurse to help others. Thank you, Jesus!”

She left a puzzled but happy Dr., smiling and praising God, too, as she practically skipped down the hospital hallway, free and ready to be God’s champion!

 

 

Inner Strength

If there ever was a time in Elizabeth’s life when she needed inner strength, it was now! At the age of 45, she was facing an emotional crisis that would take every once of strength and determination and she didn’t feel a bit strong, only weak.

Just a few months ago, Elizabeth was doing great. Her move to Virginia proved productive and her new job as Instructor for undergraduates at Virginia Tech was going well. Her new boyfriend, Tod, wanted to marry her and she loved him, more than life.

But now, she was facing a dilemma that would force her to face an evil that she saw coming, weeks ago.

Marsha was a co-worker and had been working at Virginia Tech for 10 years. Their relationship started out well; lunches and dinners were spent and ideas for teaching shared, but something was not right with Marsha.

Marsha had one quality that drove Elizabeth nuts—her obsessive nature, but confronting her friend about it would be hard, for Marsha always dominated and controlled the conversation.

Marsha had to be faced because the relationship was on a dangerous curve and Elizabeth didn’t want to be on the receiving end of Marsha’s uncontrolled wrath.

Elizabeth mused, When did this uncomfortable feeling about Marsha begin? She took time to think about it when something came to her….Yes! That’s it! That’s when it all started…

It was on a gray November day and Marsha and Elizabeth were having lunch at Marcie’s, when Marsha blurted out that her relationship with Skip, a manager at Virginia Tech, was deteriorating and she was feeling angry and resentful. She even went so far to say that, “If I could do something that would shake him up—make him think about the harm he’s caused me, why, maybe it would scare him real bad…What do you think?”….

Elizabeth remembered saying something like, “Well, I don’t know; you don’t want to do anything that will hurt him…” At least, that’s what she remembered….

December came fast and with it Elizabeth’s resolve to face Marsha. It was on a snowy, Christmas like day that she decided she would confront her friend. She had called Marsha earlier and asked to meet her after work at Martha’s Bookstore for some coffee and doughnuts.

Both arrived at about the same time and the conversation began.

“Marsha, I asked to see you today to talk with you about a matter that has been bothering me for a long time. You see,” She was about to finish her sentence when Marsha blurted out, “Elizabeth, wait, I want to share something with you about Skip. Remember Skip?

Well, I did something last night that cooked his goose! I poured a tiny amount of arsenic in his coffee and he’s still on my couch! I guess I’ll call the coroner’s office tonight and say that he just passed out and I thought he was just dead asleep from his drinking…He did drink a lot last night. And well, I guess he’s just plain dead, now! Ha! Well, what do you think? Say, you had something you wanted to talk to me about?”

Elizabeth sat in stoned silence. It was too late to say anything; especially to a murderer!

 

 

Life…. 

For longer than she cared to admit, Annette had been suffering from mental illness and receiving minimal help from a local guidance counselor. The illness began when she found out that her grandmother was dying of bone cancer. She just couldn’t handle the stress and eventual loss of someone who had loved and done so much for her—even saved her life, when she was just a newborn baby. In return, when grandma was suffering and needed to find a place to say, it was Annette who found her a lovely nursing home—a place where she could feel safe and comfortable in her last days..

It was in the fall of 2007 when grandma died and since then Annette simply couldn’t cope. Her husband had done everything he could to help her but it wasn’t enough. She was advised and finally went to, a mental health facility.

While there, a kind and compassionate counselor after talking with her, brought in and left a small packet of seeds. She was advised to water, and nurture the seeds and be in charge of their life-process—their growing and developing.

At first Annette didn’t want to do it; she felt that trying to cope with her own life, was more than enough. She didn’t want the responsibility of caring for some “small, insignificant seeds.”

But, as the days went by and she had little else to do, she thought about the seeds and one day planted the seeds in the pre-potted soil given to her, watered them and placed them on the old, gray window sill, for sunshine.

Then, she watched and waited.

In about seven days, little green seedlings began to appear. They were tiny, hardly noticeable but they were rising up, out of the soil. She found it strangely interesting and kept up with the nurturing. She liked the pattern and routine of it; for it made her feel safe and calm. 

In ten days, the seedlings began sprouting higher and she was surprised with how she felt watching them grow tall and strong. They were alive, growing big and proud and something inside of her began to feel alive, and proud, too.

As they grew and turned into beautiful green bean plants, she felt happy; for it was she who helped bring them to life... But, the more she thought about it….it wasn’t she that gave life to the little seedlings, but God. And, it was He that gave life to her. That acknowledgment, that recognition of God and his power and beauty of life, restored her soul and in the months to come, helped her to overcome the grief of her grandma’s death and it wasn’t long before she found redemption and purpose in her life.

And, as luck or divine providence would have it, her purpose in life became a dedication to helping those in nursing homes who were sick and lonely.

You see, even though some forms of life are very small, as the bean seed, once planted  turn into beautiful, tall, green beans. The same is true with humans; we start out small and helpless but some of us turn into something much bigger and wondrous, with the potential for greatness.

That’s you and me…We have the potential for greatness. Perhaps we can be what the fictional character, King Arthur from Camelot once said about us humans: “We’re all but a drop in the deep ocean of mankind…But, some of those drops sparkle…Some do sparkle!”

 

 

Love

Lucy loved just about everything. She loved her parents, her two sisters and brother, her husband Joe, delicious food, going to church—well I think you know what I mean…

Lucy was feeling especially great today, for it was her birthday and Joe was having a birthday celebration for her.

But, there was one thing that Lucy didn’t love and that was her neighbor, Phyllis. Actually, she loathed her and the loathing came from something so silly, so ordinary that it would seem peculiar to many why she developed such a distaste for the woman. But, there was no denying it; loathing Phyllis took up much of Lucy’s time..

While preparing for the birthday party, Lucy began thinking back on when her dark feelings for Phyllis began. She remembered an incident that happened around Christmastime, two years ago. She and Phyllis always exchanged gifts and Lucy once again looked forward to the exchange.

As always, Lucy marched over to Phyllis’s house two days before Christmas and gave the treasured gift to her friend. But that year, Phyllis didn’t give her a gift and never said why..

That’s when the loathing began….Thereafter; the relationship was never the same. Oh, there were outings and phone calls and such but the friendship was never quite the same….

Then, she remembered another time two months ago when they both decided on a trip to a nearby mall. They were to meet at one o’clock in the main mall area. Lucy waited and waited…Two o’clock came, then three—and still no Phyllis. Once again, no explanation, no “I’m so sorry. Something came up.” Absolutely, nothing!

The resentment inside of Lucy was strong but still she wanted and needed Phyllis’s friendship.

Well, Phyllis had said earlier that she would be at the birthday party and Lucy was hoping that this time her friend would keep her word. Whatever happened at the party, she thought, would “tell the tale” for her friend. If Phyllis didn’t turn up, that would be it!

Everyone showed at the party—friends, family and fellow co-workers…Everyone that is, except for Phyllis.

Well, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back! Lucy made her excuses, left in a huff and decided to do some serious “pay back.”

It was dark when she began hatching her plan. (Lucy knew of a contest Phyllis entered months ago; and decided to use the contest as a way to get even with her friend.)

She called Phyllis on the phone, covering the “voice piece” with a cloth. She tried this affect once before with a disgruntled neighbor and it worked. She would use it again, tonight..

“Hello, Phyllis? This is Wanda Windstrom from Prize Headquarters in Illinois. I have some good news for you!”

Phyllis was excited. Her breathing was excited and sporadic. “Yes? Oh please, what is the news?”

“Phyllis, you have just won “$2,000 dollars in our “Bake a Quick Meal Contest!”

“Wonderful! When can I expect the check?”

“We will be hand delivering your check tomorrow, around 11 in the morning. Is that O.K. with you?”

“Perfect! I’ll be right here!”

Well, tomorrow at 11 came and went and still no check, and no one from “Bake a Quick Meal,” came to her door. The only one who was at her doorstop two hours late—around 1 that afternoon was Lucy, with a big smile on her face and an envelope, filled with fake money from a friendly Monopoly game.

It was payback time and Lucy felt great!    

 

 

Personal Peace

Corrine had been working hard for over twenty-five years, counseling others as a psychologist and mending some lost souls.. It had been fulfilling, frustrating and always rewarding. Knowing that with words she was able to help others find peace, she too wished and prayed for the often, elusive peace. Peace was like a flittering butterfly—one minute it’s there, the next, it’s gone.

Retiring after all those years of listening and helping, Corrine decided that she would be proactive and see if she could find some kind of inner personal peace by hiking in the mountains.

Living in California provided ample opportunities for this and with no patients to see and care for, she set out one May day, with a back pack full of needed supplies—food and water, protection tools, a small blanket, compass and a few extra things to make sure the trip would be successful. 

The morning started out fine; she felt good and her hiking shoes fit her well for comfort and speed. The weather was cool and fresh; it added to her enjoyment of the day.

It was a beautiful May day and optimism for a new beginning was growing throughout her entire body. She was enjoying the flowers, trees and nature and forgetting her past demands and concerns as a psychologist. Just she and nature and that was more than enough.

Around four in the afternoon, she decided that it was time to go home. She felt elated and happy and a certain amount of peace gave her satisfaction.

She pulled out her compass, made sure of the desired direction and began walking back. Something must have gone wrong with the compass because an hour later she returned to the same spot.

Night was falling and fear began growing first in the pit of her stomach and then up to her heart. What to do? She observed a kind of enclave—a clearing on the side of a small hill. She took out her flashlight and checked the area. Nothing creeping on the group, just moist soft earth; it looked like it would do for the night. She felt comfortable knowing she had two strong flashlights—with extra batteries and a small blanket and food. She would be alright for the night.

As night drew darker and cooler, she looked to the heavens and soon found the peace she had been seeking for so long. How beautiful the stars looked, so bright and lovely. She thought about how many years it took to form a star and how each star had been in the heavens for thousands of years. How could anyone not believe there was a God, when all the evidence was around them—the stars in heaven, plants, flowers, animals, human beings….And, everything made so perfect, so graciously. From the beauty up above, she wondered why she ever worried about anything. God was always, he always provided for her needs. What a waste of time, she thought.

The peace of the quiet night soon engulfed her and put her safely to sleep. The blanket cushioned her head comfortably on a lowly stone and her jacket lying across her, gave comfort and warmth.

Morning came quickly and she was soon startled by a whistle…..Another camper had spotted her and was trying to get her attention with a very loud whistle…

“Say there, are you alight?” It was a man—looked around forty, and he was alone, except for a collie walking at his side.

Groggily she replied, “Yes, I’m fine. I got lost yesterday but it looks like I now have  been found…”

It wasn’t long before they both were up and running…..so to speak, with his collie in between the two. He was single like Corrine and it looked like the beginning of a beautiful romance.

Sometimes, as in this story, personal peace can come from a simple experience—a commonality—and oh how lovely the peace can be!

 

 

Prosperity With a Twist

Bill and Danielle once lived in a beautiful mansion in Rhode Island and to all who knew them, their lives mirrored the rich and famous. But, underneath the façade of prosperity I had the rare opportunity to see something different.

I used to be their friend, that is, up until a few months ago. I was having lunch with Danielle when all of a sudden she blurted out, “I’m so tired of putting up with snobs for neighbors, attending parties that only want the most glamorous, the richest and whatever! Bill and I have been thinking about doing something drastic to get away from this oppressive lifestyle! Maybe we’ll just up and do it!”

I didn’t know how to reply so I said, “I don’t know what you mean. You always seem to be so happy, both of you. Inheriting all of that money from your aunt, why that’s a blessing many don’t get! And, I know you and Bill are in love. I’m sorry; I just don’t get it!”

She looked at me funny and said, “You just don’t understand, Tonia. You just don’t know how hard it’s been for us! You don’t know what we’ve gone through, having all of this money. Maybe we should just stop being friends…”

Well, that’s the last time I saw or heard from Danielle. At least until last Tuesday when I received an invitation from her in the mail to come to a dinner/play at their mansion. It was to be a “who dunnit “with dinner an hour before. The date was set for Halloween –just three weeks away--and we were all to wear costumes.

Of course, I’ve always wanted to go to a Halloween party for adults-but with the addition of a dinner, plus play in a lovely mansion…Well, I think you know what decision I made!

About a week before the play, I saw Danielle at a fancy clothing shop, “The Classy Boutique.” I overheard a conversation between her and a much younger looking man. Danielle said, “I can’t wait until the play, then this crazy lifestyle will be over and Bill and I will be able to do what we want!”

The man replied, “Be careful Danielle, Bill may have other plans. Don’t forget, I knew him back in college and he seldom followed through on anything!”

“Nonsense! He knows what we need to do and he’s ready for the change! See you at the party and don’t be late!”

Passing through the store without seeing me, she got into her limo outside and left.

The night of the party came and I walked in dressed like the Wicked Stepmother of Snow White, found my assigned table and sat down…

It was dark inside, except for a few candles and some dimly lit spotlights focusing on the makeshift stage in the middle of a very large dinning room. There were about 20 people all together and soon the host and hostess—Bill and Danielle --- entered—dressed as characters of the play, “Gaslight.” They sat down with the other guests and minutes later, dinner was served. About an hour later, several people cleared the tables and then the stage was set for the play.

About a half hour later, the play began. Candles and a few stage lights, brightened the made-up stage but gave an eerie but suspenseful glow to the atmosphere.

Gaslight has always been a favorite of mine, so my interest was high and lasted up to the last scene, when the murderer and torturer, played by Bill, was arrested and taken away and when Danielle, who played the tortured woman, was set free. It was thrilling to watch and at the end everyone was clapping and yelling Encore!!…Encore!

Then, all of a sudden, all of the candles and lights went out…It gave me a creepy feeling; like maybe this wasn’t the end of the story.

Tragically, we all found out later that evening that Danielle’s dead body was found, hidden inside a cave on the outskirts of town and her husband, Bill gone, never to be seen again.

All that was left behind was an unsigned, handwritten note, lying on top of Danielle  which read, “I gave Danielle exactly what she wanted…a way out. Good bye and good luck.”

    

 

Purposefulness

Blair is one of those people who has struggled most of her life—always a new job, lost a husband to another woman, few friends, was unable to finish college because there was no money—just one hardship after another…You get the picture…

One of the worst things that Blair was currently undergoing was a weight problem. The weight piled up slowly at first and then year after year, a couple of more pounds—and now she was almost up to 200 pounds. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camels’ back—so to speak!

Not a church going person, Blair knew that something drastic had to be done. And, going back to church would be drastic because church always made her nervous. Everyone else always looked so confident, so well-dressed. She felt like she was the only one who didn’t dress in a proper way and the only one with a weight problem. But, something had to be done…She was feeling unhealthy, unloved and just down right down!

And so, it was on a cloudy fall day when Blair took that leap of faith and went back to church.

As she walked in and found a place to sit, she felt peace flooding her entire body and a smidgen of hope began forming in her brain, that maybe something good would come of this…

Sitting about 10 feet away from her in the same pew, was a nice-looking man, around 60 and he looked so sad…He happened to look over at her the same time she was looking in his direction and smiled a sheepish smile. She didn’t know why she did it, but she smiled back at him. 

At the end of the sermon, she congratulated the minister on a fine sermon. Seconds later, the lonely-looking man walked over to her and said, “Good Morning, I don’t recall seeing you in church before. Are you new?”

She replied, “No, I’m not new—just a woman who has stayed away much too long. I’m Blair Caldwell.”

“Nice to meet you, Blair. I’m Todd Benson. I’m a retired auditor.”

“Good to meet you, Todd.” She was thinking, how could he possibly be interested in me, when I look like this!”

“Could I come visit you, sometime Blair? Maybe we could go out for dinner? What about next weekend?”

“Well…..I …..ah….Yes! That would be nice…

And, so the relationship continued for almost a year. Todd was so loving and caring with Blair, that she became motivated to change and lost about 30 pounds. She changed her diet and began walking. The stories Todd told her about being an auditor and traveling to all parts of the world, led her to writing and it wasn’t long before she had a great mystery published. Her life was changing and for the better.

Two years later they were married and the most wonderful thing of all was that Blair was no longer overweight, unhappy, with no ambition or purpose in her life…She was a new woman…God was working with and through her. And, Todd was no longer lonely, unhappy or unfulfilled. He had found a new job working with the elderly and he loved it! No longer was he “pushing papers” but helping those who were lonely and needed guidance.

Together, they found love and a renewed purpose in their lives—serving and following Christ. What could be better?


 

 

A Bird in the Hand

Shelly was enjoying her new apartment of three months; for it was everything she wanted in an apartment—clean, neat, a wonderful view of rolling hills and at a good price. Everything was fine until she began having some friends over for dinner and they became, according to her landlord, noisy and intrusive.

At first, she thought the landlord was just being picky. But then, she noticed that whenever she had a problem with the bathroom or kitchen, he was slow in responding to her needs and when he did respond, it was slow and antagonistic.

It was several days before Groundhog Day when she knew she would have to find someone to help her with the landlord. She had three friends: Christopher Bircher, who was going for his law degree and cared about her, Adrian Croft, who was going for his master’s in Business but always busy and Jeremy Knight, who was a friend, but had little experience or interest in the law. 

Shelly had two degrees but they were in Social Psychology—helpful with getting along with others but not knowledgeable in dealing with landlords. So, she needed to make a decision. Should she seek advice from Christopher, Adrian or Jeremy? She liked and respected all three but Christopher not only knew the law well but seemed to care about what happened to her.

So, it was the day before Groundhog Day when she called Christopher and asked for his help. She called around eight in the morning, knowing that he was an early riser.

He answered the phone with a cheerful, “Good morning! Christopher Bircher, here!”

“Hi Chris! This is Shelly. As you know, I’ve been having some problems with my landlord. He’s been complaining that my dinner guests have been too loud and that some of the residents in my building have been complaining. I know that sometimes the conversations are heated, but I honestly don’t think it’s been that bad. You’ve been to my apartment several times and know the layout and such; do you think you can help me? I’m willing to quiet down some the conversations….”

“No problem, my friend. Give me his name and phone number and I’ll have a talk with him. Often such matters can be taken care of easily; once the landlord knows that the resident in question wants to do better.”

“Great! His name is Mr. Blandish and his number is: 555-494-8124. And, thank you so much Chris! I want to do what is right and I want to keep living there. It’s so nice and the view is great…”

“Happy to help, and listen, if it doesn’t work out, you can stay with me for awhile…I’ve got an extra room in the back…”

“Thanks, Chris! You’re a life saver.”

Well, Groundhog Day arrived and that was when Shelly noticed something strange..

As she walked from the bedroom to the living room, she spotted a sheet of paper that was peeking out from under the front door. She picked it up and read, “Your friend, the law student, has not impressed me! I want you out of here, now!”

Frightened, she decided not to stay but called Chris and by the end of the week, she was gone.

It was a good thing, too, because months later she found out that the police had put the landlord in jail for hounding and following a young woman. It seemed that he had been harassing her for a long time and was on the verge of kidnapping her or maybe worse… 

And, so it seems that when decisions need to be made, it is often best to choose wisely and with someone you can trust and depend on. Such was the case with Shelly..

 

 

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Neighbors come in three categories: good, bad and obnoxious. My new neighbor, Jeremy, unfortunately, is obnoxious! He’s a pain in the bazooka but let me explain.

I moved into my new apartment several months ago at Shady Lane Apartments and had plans and expectations for a good and productive life. All was going well until Jeremy moved above me and began his tirade of bad, loud and lousy music. (If you were his captive audience, I fear you would say the same..) Anyway, I digress..

I was enjoying the peace and quiet of my new apartment until the morning of January 10. I think it was around nine in the morning when he and his “friends” helped him move in. About ten minutes after he moved in, the stereo began to play. Immediately, I knew that the loudness was not a good omen but I thought, “Maybe it’s just ‘move-in’ music. Maybe he just wants to sound off a bit in his new apartment.”

After an hour of being a captive audience to the loudness, I knew I was in deep trouble. The next question in my mind was, “What do I do now?”

Of course in such a situation there are sensible alternatives such as going up to his apartment and asking him gently and calmly to “turn it down” or go to the Super and ask for help.

Then, there are other, not so nice methods, of handling such a problem. You probably know where I’m going, don’t you?

Yes, I did have another plan. I could go up there and Kick some b….t! But, knowing that I could be the recipient of something much worse, I let that thought go…

Then, I came up with another plan. It was a plan, I thought, that might lessen the noise and stress. It came to me as I was listening to his stereo blaring out yet another horrible song.

I had at my disposal an eight foot ladder and a small portable stereo. I began thinking that maybe, just maybe I could give him back a bit of his own medicine. But, the timing had to be right—that is, the music would have to go off when he was resting or sleeping. I didn’t want to do it but I had to do something to stop the music. So, I pulled the ladder from my back closet, placed it carefully beneath his bedroom, and arranged the stereo on top of it; making sure it was secure and safe. This took some doing, for I was not quite where his bed was situated.

After listening several days to find out his bedtime routine, I found out exactly when he went to bed. It seemed that the poor boy usually went to bed around one in the morning. So, one it would be!

So, two days later around one in the morning when all was quiet upstairs, knowing he was in bed fast asleep, I carefully but anxiously, reached up to the top of the ladder, turned on the stereo full blast and then stood back for results.

It didn’t take long—about a minute-- and he was up out of bed and screaming—“Turn that music off!” 

I screamed back, “Not unless you promise not to play your stereo so loud! Do you promise?”

“Yes! Alright! I’ll turn it down. But, never, ever play that awful ‘elevator music, loud again!”

Safe to say he’s never played his stereo loud again and I now have the peace I’ve been seeking…..

Sometimes one has to “fight fire with fire!”

 

 

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Amy was sixteen and every so often she was reminded by her Grandma Wilson that words were good but putting words into motion, was always a much better way to go. Amy loved her grandma but she could be quite a task-master, especially when she wanted something done.

And so it was, on a bright October day that Amy was walking to her grandma’s to help  with some fall cleaning. Amy told her grandma on the phone the night before that she would be there to help her the following day, around nine in the morning.

It was already nine-thirty and Amy was strolling down the street, just minutes away from where her grandma lived. Amy was always promising to be somewhere but seldom arriving on time..

At nine-thirty six she arrived and began walking up the steps to her grandma’s house. Just before she reached the top step she turned around and saw her boyfriend driving by. When he saw her, he honked the horn and immediately she ran back down the stairs and to his car. They began chatting and before long she totally forgot her grandma’s needs for fall clean-up.

After talking with her boyfriend, Paul, she got into the car and they sped off down the street. From her large bay window, Grandma Wilson saw her granddaughter get into the car and leave. She murmured, “There she goes, again! I wish she wouldn’t do that! The family doesn’t know that boy well and she could be putting her life in danger! Guess I’d better call her mother.”

She went to the phone and dialed. “Helen. Your mother. Just saw Amy get into a car with that Paul person. Do you know anything about him at all?”

“Mom, Paul is O.K. Dan and I have met and talked with him several times. But, I don’t like the fact that she didn’t do what she was supposed to do today—help you out with your fall cleaning.”

“It’s alright Helen. I can do the work myself but I am disturbed that she is so flighty and unreliable. Will you call me when she gets home? I do worry about her.”

“Sure Mom. Will do. And, I’ll make sure that she helps you out—probably sometime next week. And, I’ll remind her that it’s impolite and uncaring not to do something that is promised.” 

“Thanks Helen. Take care and I’ll talk with you soon.”

Well, Grandma Wilson went ahead and did the work by herself but while working with some curtains in a back bedroom, she lost her balance and fell hard on to the floor. Luckily, she had on a medical device which quickly brought an ambulance and was found to be alright, except for a few bruises.

Once Amy found out what happened to her grandma, she vowed that she would be more careful and caring in the future, especially when committing herself to help another.

As with many things in life, if one learns a lesson from any kind of failure or unkempt promise, one matures and does better the next time. Looks like in this case, Amy learned a valuable lesson on commitment and helping others…

 

 

At the Pulpit

On a cold and cloudy December day, just days before Christmas, Reverend James Thorndike sat at his cluttered, antique desk and began writing his Christmas sermon. Oh, he could have used the one that he ordered months ago from the Sermon Directory but it just wasn’t what he was looking for. And, so he continued to write but the words continued to be bland and boring!

“What should I write? Everything for Christmas has already been written and it’s the same old stuff!” He hunched over his desk like Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” and scratching his head, struggling for an original and creative thought.

Just then his seven-year old son, Jason came in wanting help with his new electronic game that Uncle George gave him on his birthday. “Daddy, can you help me with this? It’s not working!”

“Son, I’m very busy right now. Maybe your Mom can help you. She’s in the kitchen. Go ask her. I’m just too busy getting my sermon ready for Sunday.”

Jason gave his father a puzzled and disappointed look and then dejectedly walked out of the room, searching for mom.

James looked to the ceiling and prayed, “Dear God, please help me to write a decent Christmas sermon. Something original, something catchy. My congregation is getting so small; soon they may not want me anymore and then what will happen to my family? Please dear God, help me!” 

Then, suddenly there appeared a form in the corner of the room. He couldn’t tell what it was but the ‘being’ just stood there—at least it looked like he or she stood there—and it was almost as if the form was saying, “The answer to your prayer was in this room seconds ago. Are you so blind, that you didn’t see it?”

“What do you mean? Only my son was here in the room and I love him with all my heart? Are you accusing me of not being a good father?”

He could hear no reply but it was almost like the words were placed above the figure in the room which read, “Be thankful for what God has given you—your son, your wife, your life and the many blessings in your life. Wake up and understand what God has given you and those in your congregation! From this day forward, know that all things that are good, come from God and even the bad things in life can be turned into good, if only you believe!”

“How stupid and blind I have been! He shouted out loud. Now I know what I will write and the words will be glorious!”

And so now James began writing in a flurry and by the time he was finished he had before him a sermon that was timeless and a classic. His title told it all, “Believe As a Child, And You Will Live To Enjoy Many A Christmas day!”

And, isn’t it true? When we come to Christ as a child and believe with all of our heart what the Savior can do for us, aren’t we rich and full and ready to meet the challenges of life?

So, Merry Christmas and blessings to all!

 

 

Aunts and Uncles

Most people get nervous when they find out their relatives are coming for a visit. Such was the case for Tina and her memories of what happened some twenty years ago. Her mom was planning on a gathering at their home on Christmas and Aunt Hilda and Uncle Joe on her mother’s side and their children, Jon and Ruth would be attending.

Of course this meant that Tina would be helping her mother prepare the food and also the clean-up the day before. Tasks she didn’t mind because she always learned something, working with her mom.

Tina didn’t mind Jon and Ruth but she feared and detested Uncle Joe. The last time they all came to visit was around Christmas and that’s when Uncle Joe showed his true colors.

The “obnoxious event” occurred after finishing the delicious Christmas meal that she and her mom diligently prepared. The kids—all teenagers at the time, were playing some inside games in a back bedroom, while the women were working some crafts and the men were watching some football.

Tina had to walk through the living room to get some games that were in the dining room cupboard. As she walked through the living room, she had to pass in front of the TV. She hesitated for a few seconds, looking at the beautiful Christmas tree and the heard, “Move from the TV! I can’t see anything!”

Uncle Joe’s face was red and he was angry. Tina quickly moved away from the TV and was in the dining room when she heard the words, “Why did you do that? I missed the play..” 

Tina said nothing and walked quickly back to the bedroom. She overheard him say to her father, “What is it with kids, these days? They have no respect for their parents.”

She stopped midway and heard her father reply, “I’m sure Tina didn’t mean it. She’s just a little absent minded these days and she’s been working hard, getting everything ready for Christmas.. Probably thinking of her boyfriend.”

She could tell from her father’s voice that he was nervous and embarrassed. What bothered her even more was that her father seldom stood up for her and that made her feel so small, so insignificant.

Fast forward, fifteen years later, she was preparing once again her own Christmas Day dinner. Her only child, Elizabeth was helping her and soon the relatives would be ringing the doorbell and the events would begin.

Uncle Joe and Aunt Hilda would be there and with them, Ruth and her child, Linda. Linda.

Dinner went well and soon the children would be playing games, the women working quietly on their crafts and the men, as usual, watching football.

As events would have it, Elizabeth had to walk through the living room, to get to the kitchen and once again Uncle Joe cried, “Hey! You’re blocking my view! Get out of the way!”

Luckily, Tina had shared her experience to Elizabeth about Uncle Joe; so Elizabeth was ready with a reply,  “Sorry Uncle Joe.  But this is my home and isn’t Christmas about love and showing kindness to others?!”

Uncle Joe’s face went red with embarrassment and anger and said nothing but Tina’s father just smiled and nodded his head in agreement

It’s kind of nice, isn’t it to see how one’s seeds that were planted years ago, come to fruition?

Elizabeth was careful who she hung around with. From day one, her father always said, “Liz, be careful who you associate with; it can be bad for you if your friends are careless with how they act and what they say.” So, from that day on she made friends with those who were decent and upstanding. That’s not to say that there were times, as with anyone, that she made mistakes.

She was beginning to wonder if Jeremy was a true friend or someone using her. At twenty, she was beautiful, smart but sometimes naïve with the opposite sex. Jeremy was five years older than her, attractive and with a promising career at City National Bank. He had always been polite and caring with her but lately she sensed that something had changed with him.

Months ago when she first began dating him, he just wanted to be with her. But, in the last couple of weeks she caught sight of him talking and laughing with a group of people she never saw before. He would joke with them and sometimes not even notice that she was close and that just seemed odd to her. The people in the group looked familiar; she had seen them before at City National and they were quite noisy and careless when opening and closing doors.

Elizabeth’s work as secretary at Center City’s professional building was going well and she wanted to hold on to the job, for she worked hard holding fast to her professional standing.

It was on a blustery March day around noon when Jeremy walked in with two of the friends she saw in the group two months ago. They walked in talking loudly—pushing and shoving each other. As soon as Jeremy spotted Elizabeth he cried, “Hey Liz, how ya doin?”

She was shocked at his behavior, because he always was so quiet and respectful of her job and work area. But today, he was acting so different.

He broke away from the group and rushed over to her desk and said, “Liz, great to see you! How about joining me and the group for some coffee and doughnuts.?”

“Jeremy, good to see you too but you know that I can’t right now. I’m in the middle of a big report that needs to be done.”

He looked disappointed and a bit perturbed and replied, “Well, if that’s the way you feel, O.K.! Maybe another time…”

“Yes, maybe another time..”

He rejoined the group and left in a rush—talking loudly all the way out the door.

After that, she seldom heard from him but saw him often with the “group.” And, whenever he saw her, he pretended not to see her and she could tell that he was changing—that he was not the kind and considerate man he once was…

That’s when she remembered an old saying, “water seeks its own level.”

Amy and I are cousins but we are like night and day—so very different! 

Amy loves the early morning while I like the dark of night. Amy enjoys working at a bank and coming home early; while I enjoy working for a downtown attorney and happy with the night life. 

In so many ways my cousin and I are different but there is one area where we are just alike—and that is, we want to make a difference in this world while we’re here and be successful at doing it.

All around us we see soaring gas prices, higher costs for food, homes in distress and just about everyone we know, going nuts and asking, “Why me?”

But, Amy and I don’t complain—well we did at first—and then we thought about it for awhile and decided to take action. 

Instead of worrying and wondering about food and not being able to eat out, we’ve decided to give monthly to a local food pantry. By giving what we can, we’re finding out that we have more than we originally thought and we’re having happy feelings, helping others out.

And, we’re car pooling with our co-workers and finding that it’s taking away a lot of stress with driving and saving us all a bunch of money. In addition, we’re getting to know our co-workers a lot better and finding out we have more in common with them than the many differences we thought we had before.

Many of our contemporaries think we are “squares” or “goodie-two-shoes” but you know what? We don’t care because we feel we’re doing the right thing and making a difference. And isn’t that what life is all about? Making a difference, doing the right thing and finding happiness?

Moral of this story? If you can, make lemonade out of lemonade; sure makes the taste of it go down better!

 

 

Spilt Milk

Raven was always in a hurry and because she was always in a rush, she often made mistakes or was forgetful. Unfortunately, today would be no exception.

Her morning started out fine—a nice breakfast of toast with jam, and some coffee. Being single gave her more time in the morning and that suited her just fine. Then, around seven she got dressed and began gathering up her documents and briefcase. She had a meeting with some insurance agents on proposals for more effective policies and saving of money; so making sure she had the necessary documents, was a high on her list for the day. It looked like she had everything she needed in the briefcase…

At eight, she was out the door, ready to meet the day. She got into her 2007 Chevy Malibu and began pulling away from the curb. It was then that she remembered that she was supposed to be at the meeting at eight-fifteen. The meeting was being held at a hotel, about thirty miles away, and everyone was to bring an innovative insurance proposal that would help save money for the company. So, she knew that she would be late and being late for such a meeting was kicking in her nerves.

As she drove, she turned on the stereo and dialed her favorite station—WMVO—Jazz and began singing along to one of Tony Bennett’s songs. The music and lyrics began to calm her down and positive feelings began flooding her brain and body.

Around eight-thirty five she pulled into the hotel parking lot, turned off the ignition and reached for her briefcase and purse. It was a cold March day and she was glad that she wore her heavier coat.

Upon reaching the entrance to the hotel, she walked to the elevator, pushed on the Up Button and waited. It took less than a minute for the elevator to come to the ground floor, and when it arrived, in she walked. She pressed the Number Nine button and waited.

She arrived on Floor nine and walked into the corridor. She saw Conference Room # 12 and proceeded to walk into the room.

Immediately she knew that she had forgotten something important; for smack in the middle of the room on a large table was a note that read: “All Insurance Proposals Belong Here!”

Her heart sunk into her stomach, she began perspiring and she felt that she would faint. Minutes later, others walked into the room; each putting their proposals on the large table, hanging the coats and then finding a place to sit down.

Elizabeth was too nervous to sit, so she hung up her coat and stood in the back on an old reclining chair.

The conference leader walked in with a man she knew—Brian Keepsake. As soon as Brian saw her he could tell that she was in a bad way. He walked over to her and said, “Elizabeth, glad you’re here. I’ve got something to show you.”

He took out his briefcase and presented her with a folder. Inside the folder was his plan for the Insurance deal. But instead of one Insurance deal, he had two.

When she saw the two insurance deals, she said, “Why do you have two?”

He replied, “I don’t know why in the world I created two; but something told me that you might need one! Was I wrong?”

Elizabeth just smiled and said, “You couldn’t be more right! Thank you! I left mine home on my desk…Wouldn’t you know?”

   

 

Don’t Cut Off Your Nose, Despite Your Face

Julia’s life was a good one; most everything in her life went well. But, there was one area where improvement was needed and that was her weight. Her work as a psychologist at the Mount Carmel Mental Institution was satisfying but often stressful; however, she loved the fact that she was helping many with their problems.

Some of her patients were overweight; often seeking her professional help but she was beginning to feel ineffective because of her own weight problem. She was a good-looking woman and at forty-eight, striking in her looks and demeanor. The weight issue was just a small part of who she was but she had to admit that being over weight, was affecting her health and possibly her professional standing; even though no one ever made an issue of it.

So, after thinking and praying about the matter, she decided to do something she hadn’t done in a very long time. On a Saturday morning, she opened her desk drawer and reached for her old King James Bible. Before reading from it, she paused to pray, “Lord, I need help and I come to you for guidance. As you know, I’m over weight and it’s affecting my health and work. Forgive me for not coming to you first, as I should have. But, Lord, please help me with this. I need to lose some weight not only for my health but so that I can help others with the same problem. Lead me Lord in scripture, so that I can overcome this one area in my life that is holding back…”

After praying, she went to the Old Testament where she found some insightful words. She found the help she was looking for from Philippines 4:6: “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Then she read Jeremiah 30:17 “For I will restore health unto thee..” 

And then she read from Matthew 6: 33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” After reading those words, calmness and a beautiful peace came over her like never before…

Once finished reading, she prayed, “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for revealing to me the exact words I needed to read. Those words have always been there and I didn’t even know it. Help me to put those words into action, change my ways and then lead others to those words of encouragement and help.” 

She placed the book back on her desk and then went about her daily work. As she worked and ran her errands, the words became like a seed; growing inside of her. It wasn’t long before she began acting on those words—for the seed began maturing.

It didn’t happen overnight but several weeks later, she found herself feeling more alive and healthier. Months later, she and those around her began seeing a difference. Not only did she look thinner, but she had a glow about her that couldn’t be ignored. Her friends, family and her patients could see that she had changed. She seemed more focused with her job and her patients who suffered from being overweight, were getting real help from her, not just empty words. She was sharing with them what she did to lose weight and some were applying those ideas to their lives.

It wasn’t long before her changing health habits became part of her daily routine and she became focused on the “whole” of life, rather than just a small “slice” of life.

But the most important thing of all was that she found a closer relationship with Christ, which spilled over to those around her. Kind of like the ripples of water, when a stone is skipping over it.

Helen was eighthly-five years old, in fair shape for her age and lived alone. Living alone didn’t bother her but she still missed her husband, George, who died ten years ago. She used to have a woman named Trudy help her out with errands but Trudy up and moved away a year ago, so she now had to run her errands by herself.

It was on a cold February day when Helen decided that she needed some groceries. Her poor, old refrigerator was almost empty so she combed her hair, put on some lipstick and then put on her warmest coat. As she walked out the door, an overwhelming sense of pride and self-awareness flooded her soul. This was one of the first times she would be going out be herself—not with her husband or Trudy but by herself. “Yes, she thought to herself, ‘I can do this even though I’ve been so fearful in the past. I don’t need any practice runs like George used to say….I can just do this!”

Anxiety attacks many and Helen was just one of many who had suffered for many years. Even when her husband was alive, the attacks would strike at any time. When Trudy came to help her with the errands and such, she did better because Trudy didn’t feed into the fear. She simply told her to “buck up” and get going…Yes, Trudy was good for her.

Anyway, she walked out the door confident to meet whatever would come her way. As she walked down Madison Avenue she continued to feel positive. It wasn’t until she reached the corner of Monroe and Franklin that fear began to creep up to her heart..

She tried to shrug it off and for a few minutes it worked but then the fear returned. As she approached Conner’s Grocery the fear grew until she had to stop. She simply couldn’t get her legs to work…So, she stopped about 40 feet from the store and just stayed there for what seemed eternity.

Then, she saw someone she knew from church and the man began waving at her….

“Helen! Oh Helen! How are you?”

At first she was shocked, for she seldom ran into Ben. He was always busy with volunteer work. But, the shock of seeing him was like a bolt of lightening…

She replied weakly, “Ben….why how nice to see you. Didn’t know that was you.”

“Helen. Haven’t seen you for weeks. How are you doing….That is, are the anxiety attacks better?”

 

 

Encouragement

Jean was discouraged. The last two years of her life had been unkind, hard and challenging and she didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Her husband had been ill for months, her own health had been precarious with bouts of the flu and colds that never ended and her secretarial work at Writing International, had been routine and monotonous for more days than she could count.

One day while shopping at her favorite retail store on a cold, November day, she was looking for something bright and cheerful to wear. She was feeling good because she finally found a nice pair of pants and a lovely blouse and was now ready to pay for her items..

As her turn at the cashier’s drew near, she saw that the clerk was an older woman, short in stature, with gray hair and a lovely and open smile. The clerk began adding up her items and then asked, “Are you a senior?”

Stunned, Jean looked at her for several seconds before replying and then said,” Why, yes I am. Is something wrong?”

“Oh no! just wanted to ask because on Tuesdays we offer a 15% discount to seniors. I wasn’t sure if you were old enough to be a senior, but thought I would ask.”

“Oh, I see. Jean’s surprise turned into happiness, knowing that she would receive a discount on what she bought and that the woman acted as if she couldn’t tell her age.

Then the clerk replied, “Well, at least there are some benefits to getting older, aren’t there?”

Jean paused again and then replied, “Yes, that’s true; it does help.”

Then the clerk said something Jean would never forget…

“It’s just the cycle of life, isn’t it? Getting older? Just our time to be a senior.”

Time to be a senior, Jean thought. “What a wonderful way of looking at life,” she thought. With added encouragement, Jean walked out of the store with a lighter feeling in her heart and soul.

From that day on she never felt the same about aging. Getting older wasn’t so bad with the many discounts available, good food that can be prepared, being with someone you love or just enjoying God’s wonderful creations.

For in truth, when you think about it, life is a cycle of beginnings and endings..…A wonderful, and often, surprising life cycle!

 

 

 

Evangelism

Ray looked out his front door peephole and saw a man holding a Bible, displaying a very determined and purposeful look. The man also looked bold and a bit scary. Ray didn’t want to open the door because he could tell he was just another “evangelist.” This was the third one in two months and it was becoming tedious and monotonous. But, he decided to let him in; maybe this one would be different.

“Good morning, I’m Jay Baskerville and I’m from the Assembly of God on Main Street and I would like to talk with you about God. May I come in?”

Ray felt queasy about letting him but he replied, “Sure. Come on in.”

“Please, have a seat.” He directed him to the couch in the living room. The sun was pouring in and was making a cold November day, warmer and more inviting.

“Let me begin by saying that ‘we’re all sinners.’ And that is the main reason I’m here. No one can enter Heaven unless one repents with a true and honest heart.”

Jay continued his sermon and about half way through Ray began coughing, something he had been doing a lot lately and would soon be seeing a doctor about it.  He noticed that the evangelist didn’t seem to notice the coughing; but kept on talking and gave no thought or advice to help the cough. Ray got up to get some water but the evangelist just kept talking; oblivious to Ray’s troubles. Finally, Ray’s cough subsided and he returned.

All Jay could say was, “Oh, you’re back. Now, let’s get back to the sinful life…..”

Ray interjected by saying, “I think I’ve heard all I want to hear about the sinful life and forgiveness. Your actions have spoken loudly as to what kind of Christian you are….I think perhaps you are the one who at this point, needs forgiveness! And, as I’m leading you back to the front door, I will give sinning and forgiveness considerable thought…In the meantime, try to think about what it means to be a true and caring Christian and how you can be of help when someone is unwell and struggling..”

They both got up and Jay looking dumbfounded replied, “Well, that was certainly a rude comment! I don’t understand you at all…. And, I won’t be coming back here, for sure!”

As Ray began closing the door, he replied, “I hope that’s a promise! And, keep in mind, that Christianity is more about “actions than empty words.”

 

 

Ray’s Deadline

Ray Walters had been working at home as an online Instructor for almost ten years and was the kind of man many depended on. His job, instructing Beginning Psychology was interesting, fun and a learning experience not only for his students but for himself, too 

At the beginning of every class he told his students to make the most of their learning experience and to not wait until the last moment to do so. Most of the time he followed his own advice but as spring term approached, he found that he was not ready.

Because he worked online, he was accountable to only one person and that person was Melinda Workman. She was the kind of woman who not only “demanded” quality and quantity but also “timely” work.

And so it was on a beautiful April day, just five days to spring quarter when Ray looked at his schedule and work accomplished and saw to his horror that he had only half of his work done for the quarter and many assignments and papers to prepare. After loud curses and stomping around his study in nervous anxiety and fear, he got down to brass tacks and began his research.

Around two in the afternoon he received a phone call. He looked at his cell phone and from his Called ID he saw that it was Melinda. Surely, she would want to know how he was coming along with plans for spring and she was one who required concrete and swift answers. With Melinda Workman it was “her way or the highway.”

He let the phone ring, forcing himself to focus on his spring plans. After seven rings, the noise stopped.

A wonderful feeling of relief swept over him and he returned to his work with an even greater focus.

In the following hours he made great headway with his spring quarter plans and was not interrupted, once.

Then around six in the evening, the phone began ringing again. He looked once again at his Called Id and saw that it was Melinda. This time he wasn’t so fearful, so he picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

“Well Mr. Raymond Walters! I finally got a hold of you! Where have you been?!”

“Ms. Workman! Good to hear from you! I’ve been right here getting my work done for spring quarter. I was unable to answer the phone earlier because my neighbor from across the hall was at the door and she needed some advice. So, what’s up? How can I help you?”

“You can help me by telling me that you have everything ready for spring quarter! I must have your lesson plans and assignments no later than tomorrow, so I can get them posted and ready for your next class. You do have them, don’t you?”

“Yes, I am working on the final assignment now. I will have them ready for you later tomorrow.”

“Good! That’s what I was hoping. But, don’t forget, I will also need your outline plan for summer, too. As I told you earlier, this needs to be turned in at the same time.”

A lump in Ray’s throat began and it just wouldn’t go away. He had forgotten about the outline for summer. In his fervor to finish spring’s plans, he had forgotten the outline for summer.

He replied in a hesitant tone, “I’ll do my best to have it done, too, Melinda..”

“That Ms. Workman to you and you make sure it’s finished and in good shape by two, tomorrow!”

Ray just learned an important lesson from Melinda, “always be prepared and plan ahead!”

 

 

Julia and Happiness

How many of us are like the following character, Julia? Read and see what you think…

Julia was never happy and she never knew why. Why, right from the beginning at the age of five, she remembered that the only time she felt happy was when her sister, Eileen was “unhappy.” But, in her mind that was alright because Eileen was always happy and always getting approval and praise from her parents…

So, in order for her to be happy, Julia looked for those who were, in her opinion, too happy…After all, people shouldn’t be happy all of the time and didn’t she have a right to be happy? And, considering that she had put up with  such an obnoxious sister and parents who didn’t seem to know what was going on, why those were reasons enough to find a little bit of happiness….

And so it was on a beautiful fall day that Julia would find out the definition of true happiness.

She had been attending a local college and as a requirement of her Social Work degree, she was to attend a local nursing home and do some volunteer work with some seniors who were lonely.

Her first initial responses to this was, “Why me? Why do we have to do this? I don’t have time!”

Of course her Instructor, Jane Thurman, replied, “And, why not you, Julia? After all, this is part of your requirement for your degree, as it is for everyone in this class! You will do this assignment, or you will not pass! And, you might even enjoy it; why you might find that you will be happy!”

“Humph!” she thought.  “Happy, my foot,” she said under her breath…

Her first day at the home was frustrating and she found herself becoming impatient with how slow they all were..

And then she met Roy Poundstone, a small, lonely but nice looking older man and he seemed to so happy when she talked with him that she soon found herself feeling a twinge of happiness talking with him. He just seemed so needy, so desiring someone’s company. When she found out that he had no one—his wife dead and family living over 1,000 miles away, why she began to feel something for the old man…

On her third visit with Roy, she found his room empty. She quickly went to the nurse’s station and found out that Roy had been taken to the hospital, deathly ill with pneumonia.

An hour later she arrived at the hospital and was directed to his room by a kind older nurse. As she walked into the room, she saw him lying in the hospital bed, with many tubes and machines monitoring his frail health.

She walked up to his bed and saw that his eyes were closed. She decided to touch his hand and when she did, he slowly opened his eyes and said, “Julia! You’re here!”

At that moment she realized what true happiness was…

“Of course I am. How are you feeling?” His response was weak but happy.

“Not the best, but better now that you’re here.” He smiled but she could tell he would not be alive much longer.

Seconds later, his eyes blazed with fear and he cried out, “No, please not now!” By the time the nurses arrived, he was gone..

Julia now knew the true meaning of happiness and also the true meaning of sadness…She would never be the same…..

 

 

In-Laws

Joyce loved her husband dearly but her mother-in-law was something else! Why from the very first meeting Jay’s mom, Helene, looked at her with disdain and said, “Crawford! What is a Crawford?! Let me find my book of names and I will check and see who you are and where you come from!”

Joyce was flabbergasted by such treatment but what made it worse was that Jay just stood there and said nothing. Course, they had only been married for a year and Jay’s mother, Helene and father-in-law, Hank, had not attended the wedding. Jay admitted right from the beginning that his mother was difficult and demanding and didn’t want to attend the wedding. So, that first unpleasant memory was in her mind as she quietly planned a reunion with his folks. Hank, was a quiet man, so she was not fearful of him. But, Helene was another matter.

It was getting close to Thanksgiving and Joyce thought it would be a good idea to invite his folks over for dinner. Jay thought it was a good idea but was afraid of how his mother would be, coming to their home for the first time..

Jay was going to do the inviting and so on Monday, two weeks before Thanksgiving, he dialed their number…

Jay’s father answered the phone. “Hello?”

“Dad? It’s me, Jay. Can I talk with you a minute?”

“Sure, son. You know you can call here anytime. What’s up?”

“Dad, I know it’s been awhile since we’ve talked or visited and I apologize but Joyce and I would love for you and Mom to come over for dinner on Thanksgiving. I realize Mom got off on the wrong foot with Joyce and Joyce is somewhat anxious being around her, but we both feel the need to give it another try. Do you think Mom would come and make an effort of getting along with my wife?”

“Well, I think so. Let me talk with her and I’ll get back with you later.” 

“Great! Thanks Dad…”

Several days later Jay’s Dad called and said that they would be coming for dinner.

It was about an hour before the big day and Joyce was finishing up in the kitchen. Joyce had everything ready—the table was set, food was cooking and the house was sparkling clean.

The doorbell rang an hour later and Jay walked to the door and opened it.

“Mom and Dad! So good to see you. Won’t you come in?”

Both walked in, Jay took their coats and everyone walked toward the living room. 

Joyce walked in and blurted out, “Mom….Dad…So, glad you could come. Dinner will be ready soon.”

Jay’s mother replied, “Nice home but kind of cluttered.”

Joyce ignored the remark, and went directly to the kitchen.

Jay left his folks, walked to the kitchen and said, “Honey, I know you’re upset but let’s see how it goes….”

Tears were forming in Joyce’s eyes but she decided right then and there to see it through..

Just then, Jay’s Dad came in and said, “Please forgive Helen. She just found out several days ago that she has cancer and she’s very confused and angry.”

Joyce said nothing but a look of surprise and compassion filled her face and then Jay said, “Oh Dad! We’re so sorry. If there’s anything we can do, please let us know.”

“Thanks Son and thank you, Joyce, for inviting us.” With that he left and went back to the table…

As everyone was seated and the food was served, Helene said, “Well, the food looks good Joyce, but let’s see what it tastes like.” She smiled at her and with a tears beginning to form in her eyes weakly said, “So sorry it took us so long. Thank you for inviting us…”

It was a Thanksgiving to remember; for two months later Helene died but before she died she whispered to her husband, “Tell them I’m so sorry for the way I’ve been, that I love them and ask them to please forgive me!” As she spoke her last words, a peace came over her and a kind of glow enveloped her entire body, as if a healing were taking place.

Moral of the story—be happy and show your love to others whenever you can. Life is so short and filled with such potential. Live it well and wisely!

 

 

Angry Angela 

Angela was angry and she would get even; oh she would get even! True, she was only a freshman at Michigan State University and a novice at acting, but she gave a good audition. Shoot, she gave a wonderful performance! Besides, the Director, James Madison, said that she did well and yet he gave the leading role to someone named, Cybil Blandish. Angela got a small part, that of a receptionist but that just wasn’t good enough; certainly not what she was expecting!

Angela found out later that the reason Cybil was given the lead role was because she had money and lots of it!  The play, “Her Cold Heart,” was a murder mystery and the lead character—Monica Mulligan—was a sociopath and murderess and would be a great part for an aspiring actress. And, that’s what she was—an aspiring and talented actress.

The play was to open around Thanksgiving and rehearsals were to begin the first of October. “Well, she thought. I’ll play my part but maybe there’s a way I can….” Before she could finish her thought, another idea began forming in her brain.

The rehearsals went as expected and it was the day before opening night. Everyone in the play had an extra job or two and Angela’s extra job was to make sure all of the props were in place for all of the actors. She didn’t particularly enjoy the work but there was one aspect she did enjoy…that of making sure that Cybil had everything she needed for her upcoming scenes.

Opening night finally arrived and it looked like everything was ready. Everyone in the play was excited and the director was giving his “fired up” speech before the play, “You have all done well and I expect that each and everyone of you will give a great performance…especially Sybil, dear! Without you, we just wouldn’t have a play! Now, go out there everyone break a leg!”

Well, as the curtain rose and Act One began, it was Sybil’s cue to appear. Seconds went by and no Sybil…The curtain went down and the director flew backstage to find out what was wrong…

Angela gave a worried look to everyone and shouted, “Sybil is nowhere! What shall we do?”

All of a sudden, Sybil showed up, her face in a swollen and blood-red rash. “Who did this to me? Which of one of you jerks did this to me?!”

The director, ……..replied, “Oh Sybil, how awful! Let’s don’t think that this was done deliberately…Let’s just get you to a Dr. right away! Sam, take her to Dr. Seinfeld, immediately!”

After she left he asked, “Is there anyone here that can take her part? Her understudy called in last night, sick and the show must go on”

Angela shouted, “I can! I memorized her lines just in case anything awful happened…I can do it! And, you won’t be sorry!”

Well, Angela took over and did a great job; however, she didn’t know that Cybil performed some skullduggery herself. The day before opening night, Cybil went through one of Angela’s props and took away the fake knife and replaced it with a real one…

And, oh the anguish it brought to the receiver of that knife!

Carol was brought up in a Christian home, where “turning the cheek” was not just following of the gospel but a way of life. She had just turned 35 and had been working at a local bank, where she had found many opportunities to look the other way at rude behavior and for the most part, it had been an affective way of handling people. At least, for Carol.

That was all about to change on a cloudy September day, two days before Labor Day. The day started out normal and easy-going for Carol. Just 10 customers and they all had been cordial and in a holiday kind of mood..

It was the eleventh customer—Jake Halloway—who would prove to be different in every way…

He approached her window and in a gruff voice said, “Humph! I would like to make a withdrawal!” He was loud and negative and she could tell by his demeanor that he meant business. He continued, “I want the withdrawal of $20,000 in 20s and I don’t want to have to wait for it! Do you understand?!”

With fear rising to her throat she replied, “Yes Sir. But, I will need some identification and I will have to see my manager first before giving the money to you. It’s standard procedure, sir. 

“My name is Jake Halloway and I’ve been coming to this bank for over 20 years and I don’t want any hassles…Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mr. Halloway. It will only take a few minutes and I’ll be right back.”

“Humph! Same old bank…” He whispered to himself. 

Carol quickly made her way to Ben Olan—the bank president of Hanover City Bank—and saw that he was on the phone…Gesturing with his left hand, he conveyed to her that he would be right with her.

Carol waited. Finally he got off the phone and asked her what she needed.

“Sir, a man by the name of Jake Halloway  wants to withdraw $20,000 and sir, I’ve never dealt with Jake Halloway before but I have heard his name. Sheila Johnson has mentioned him from time to time…Have you ever dealt with this man; do know what he looks like?”

“Yes, I know Jake. Talked with him about a year ago. He was thinking of moving out of state and needed some information on real estate. Let me take care of an item and I’ll be right there.”

“Thanks. I’ll go back and look over his identification and keep him busy until you arrive.”

Before Carol arrived back at her station, she noticed that Jake had a strange look on his face—a look that chilled her to the bone.

And, he had in front of him a gun, and he was pointed the gun at her and the other five tellers behind t he counter. He shouted, “Money! Everyone empty their drawers now! Put all the money in this sack. 

He laid the huge sack in front of Carol’s work station and she began hurriedly putting  money into it. She then passed it down to the others and they began doing the same..

All the time, Jake kept waving his gun at everyone behind the work station and telling the other five customers in the bank to lie down flat on the floor. Everyone complied, for they could tell from his demeanor that he would kill in an instant.

Carol began feeling something strange; something she hadn’t felt in a long time—maybe never…Her fear was being replaced by anger and a boldness so strong that she felt almost like a lion, a powerful and strong lion!

Seconds later, one of the five on the floor, a six year old girl began crying.

“Get the child to shut up!” He shouted at the mother and for a split second Carol took advantage of the distraction, grabbed her heavy person that was lying underneath the counter and with great force slammed it hard into his face. The surprise hit caused him to back away, dropping the gun to the floor. It landed inches away from one of the men on the floor, who quickly picked it up and aimed the gun at Jake.

The man with gun cried, “What guts you have, lady! I guess you showed him who’s in charge!”

The last thing Carol remembered before landing straight and hard on the cold Bank floor was, “I did it! I really did it!”

 

 

Fear of the Dark

Ray had always been afraid of the dark. It all started when a relative frightened him while staying with the family one cold, December day. The weather was so bad that Uncle Joe had to stay overnight. A blizzard was in the making, so good old Uncle Joe stayed in the extra bedroom, upstairs next to Ray. Ray was only ten years old and was unaware of Uncle Joe’s strange ways.

Everyone was in bed that night, except for Uncle Joe. Unbeknownst to Ray, the strange uncle liked to scare children. Ray’s family made a note of not doing that to Ray because Ray was a very sensitive child and was frightened easily.

Well, Uncle Ray had a habit of not listening to anyone, so that night he tiptoed toward Ray’s bedroom, slowly opened the door and made some ghostly sounds. Ray was a light sleeper and practically jumped out of bed when he heard the strange noise.

Later, the next morning Uncle Ray was severely criticized and told not to come back for a very long time…

And so it was on another December night after coming home from a hard day’s work at the bank, that those long ago fears began to return...

He had just finished his microwave meal, cleaned up the kitchen a bit, when he heard someone knocking at the front door.

Being a bachelor, he seldom had anyone over so the knocking on the door gave him a jolt.

Cautiously, he went to the door, looked through the small peep hole and saw nothing. He could see no one standing there, so he looked a second time.

This time he saw to the right he thought he saw something on the floor, about ten feet away—a box placed in the middle of the floor.

“Could be for my neighbor,” he thought out loud. “Yes, probably for John Milestone. He always gets packages.”

So, he went back to the kitchen and began getting things ready for the next day. That’s when he heard another knock on the door.

He quickly returned to the door and once again looked through the peep hole. Again, he could see nothing except for a beautiful red scarf and it was lying on top of the package.

Thinking that the scarf and the package were meant for his neighbor, he sighed and went to the living room and put on the TV.

Before he could sit down, he heard a third knock. His nerves were becoming unhinged and fears began flooding his brain. “What if it’s a maniac, someone who wants to hurt me?”

Cautiously he went once again to the door and as soon as he saw the figure before him, his fears subsided and his frown of fear turned to a face of joy. It was Gloria from the bank—a woman he had been training for several months.

As soon as he opened the door he knew why she was there. "Hi Ray! Would you like some company? Got some snacks from Joe’s Deli…”

 

 

Family Pet

The Johnson’s family pet—although only experienced through the eyes of ten year old Julia-- epitomized the word “joy” from the very first day she arrived. There was something about her liveliness and peace that made little Julia, happy and fulfilled.

Julia was remembering the first time she met the friendly creature, for she was the first and only member of the family to enjoy such an acquaintance. It was on a beautiful Memorial Day years ago when the strange but wonderful event occurred.

“That was a moment!” Julia whispered out loud. How glorious a being she was and Julia surmised that she was about her age at the time—around ten years old. On that day Julia found out so much about the lovely creature--her likes, dislikes, her goals and ambitions but most of all she found out about a “secret” that the young girl wanted to share with her.

It was around one in the afternoon that day when Julia met the lovely stranger. It was a busy time with cleaning up after the picnic when Julia walked over to one of her favorite sites at the park, choosing a spot under a lovely elm tree. Without knowing how the little girl appeared or where she came from, Julia decided to speak first… 

“Well, my new friend, tell me about yourself and why you’re talking to me first, rather than to everyone in my family.”

The friendly creature began, “I wanted to talk with you first because you seemed to be the friendliest. Don’t get me wrong but the rest of your family seems nice enough; I think maybe I sensed that you needed me the most. Perhaps I was wrong?”

Julia was surprised but answered, “Well, maybe you’re right about that….I do need help but I don’t know what to say to my folks and besides they’re always so busy.”

“Well then, tell me what’s on your mind. I’m a good listener, or so I’ve been told. 

Julia was at first hesitant but she saw how the friendly this person was so she began..

“Well, as you can tell, my teeth stick out awfully and I don’t have any friends except my grandma. Almost everyone I know doesn’t believe in God or Jesus and they think I’m just plain odd!”

The friendly one observed that Julia was about to cry, so she waited a few minutes and then said…

“Oh Julia, if you could only see yourself the way I do! You are such a beautiful person—inside and out and have such a wonderful future ahead of you…”

Julia perked up and replied, “Thank you for such kind words but how do you know about my future? No one I know, knows what the future brings. How is it you know this?”

The little being just smiled and said, “Dear Julia, I can’t tell you how or why I know this. I just know. I must be going soon, but always remember what I told you…”

About that time, Julia’s mom appeared and said, “Who were you talking to just now? There is no one here!”

Hearing her mom’s words startled her and found to her shock that her friend was now gone.

Years later, after struggling through college, a marriage that ended in divorce but doing well as an elementary teacher—encouraging others to great heights--she remembered once again what the friendly creature once said about having a wonderful future. She didn’t know then, but knew now, that she was in the presence of a lovely and kind angel.

Angels come in many forms—sometimes in earthly forms—and oh the difference they can make!

 

 

Tonia, Why Are You So Fearful?

Tonia had her head buried in her hands, her long brown hair falling gently on her neck and table, as she cried with lost abandonment.

Her friend, Sheila asked, “Tonia, I’ve never seen you like this. Why are you so afraid?”

Tonia couldn’t stop crying and kept her face cradled in her hands. She could tell no one her secret. Not even Shelia, her best friend.

“Tonia. Talk to me! What has happened?” She gently but firmly put her hands on top of her friends and pulled. Slowly Tonia released her grip and placed her hands on the kitchen table.  

Her crying slowed but the expression on her face was so sorrowful that it took everything inside of Sheila to hold back tears for her friend.

Slowly, Tonia began to speak. “I can’t tell you anything! It is just too despicable to even discuss! You wouldn’t understand, Sheila. You just wouldn’t understand and there is nothing you can do to help me! Nothing!”

Now Sheila was really worried. She had never heard or seen her friend so depressed. Tonia was always so outgoing, achievement-oriented and ready to help anyone, anytime.

“Please tell me what is going on with you! I’m your friend and I’m not leaving this room until you tell me why you feel so fearful! 

Tonia began sobbing again, got up from her chair and began pacing the kitchen floor.

“Alright! If you want to know the reason, I’ll tell you but you’ve got to understand that if you stay and hear what I have to say, you may not like what you hear and you, too, could be in danger!”

Friendship was everything to Sheila but she began wondering if maybe this friendship had reached its limits. She replied, “Tonia, talk to me! I’m prepared for the consequences. With God on our side and the police not far away, we can handle it! Shoot!”

She began slowly but with earnest: “It all began two weeks ago when I took out the trash on Tuesday morning. I always take out the trash at six in the morning on Tuesday, so it’s ready when the trash men come for pick up. But something odd happened that morning. Remember me telling you that I got new neighbors about a month ago?  Well, I found out from talking with the woman that they’ve been married for about two years.”

Sheila nodded her head in agreement.

“Well, I saw something in their bedroom window as I was walking back after dropping off the trash. I’ve seen them ‘horse’ around before—laughing and running around.. But, this time he had his hands around her neck and he was squeezing hard. Then I saw that he backed off laughing but then seconds later he was at it again and squeezing harder. When he was finished, I saw that she dropped to the floor and didn’t get up. Then he looked out the window and saw me! He smiled and gave me a ‘thumbs up.’ Scared me to death! Now, do you see why I’m so scared?”

Shelia just stood there for awhile without saying a word and then replied, “Tonia, you must go to the police and tell them exactly what you told me. I’ll come with you.”

“No! I can’t! If I do, I know he’ll come for me and if he finds out about you, you, too, could be in danger!”

“Tonia, I’m not leaving here until you agree that we both will go to the police. I will back up everything you’ve told me.”

“Alright. I know that’s probably what we need to do. And, going together will make it easier, not so scary.”

“Good. Now let’s get ready. It’s only two in the afternoon; it won’t take long to get there. And, I’ll drive.”

They both got ready to go but as they approached the door to leave, someone rang the doorbell. It was a tall man, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt and he was carrying a cake but an ordinary cake—a cake that was laced with sweet but deadly poisoning….

You just wouldn’t understand and there is nothing you can do to help me! Nothing!”

 

 

Fulfillment

Janice finally felt fulfilled when she received her doctorate degree from Capella University in the fall of 2005.. She had finally arrived! What more could she ask for—a beautiful home, grown children off on their own and successful in Ohio, a husband who adored her and now at long last, her doctor’s degree?!

She should feel happy, fulfilled and filled with joy but here she was in her very private bedroom and sobbing her heart out…Life could be so cruel, she thought. Why was this “thing” happening to her, why did she feel so depressed and in despair when she should be feeling “on top of the world?”

Dr. McMillen had given her the bad news yesterday, just a day after she received her degree! What timing, she thought. A cancer, he said. A small cancer had been slowly growing on the tip of her uterus. There was hope, but it was small and fading, like a candle’s glow, almost gone.

Her degree would be useless, with the cancer. Was all she did, done in vain?

She lay on the bed, worrying and wondering what kind of future—or maybe there wouldn’t be any kind of future for her, when she heard a voice whispering…..”Be not afraid, Janice I am here with you…”

This “presence” filled her with a calmness she had never felt before and somehow, some way, she knew that things would be alright.

She returned to her Dr’s office for a test result two days later and he gave her such a look of puzzlement, that it stunned her right down to her bones!

He said, ‘Janice, I can’t understand this; it’s not logical, it’s not how it goes…but the cancer—all of it—is gone! You are free, clear and healthy..”

Janice replied, “I know what has happened!…Christ has forgiven my sins and has set me free of this illness. Praise God! Now, I can use my degree as nurse to help others. Thank you, Jesus!”

She left a puzzled but happy Dr., smiling and praising God, too, as she practically skipped down the hospital hallway, free and ready to be God’s champion!

 

 

Gifts of the Spirit

Having just graduated from high school, Christie had no idea what she would do with her life. If her mother had anything to do with it, she would become a genius and solve the ills of the world. But, that was mother!

In reality, it was known in her class that she was the girl “most likely not to succeed.” But, no one ever took the time to get to know the real Christie; for deep inside she had attributes that were wonderful, and pure.

Of course, Christie kept her attributes and ambitions to herself and in truth, wasn’t sure if those feelings would ever come true. Often, she thought her ambitious dreams were just that---dreams that floated away, once the dream was over.

But then one day something happened and Christie was able to shine like never before. It was on a cold December day, a day when most people wanted to stay inside and keep warm. It was on such a day when Christie was walking to her dental assisting job when she came upon a poor boy, shivering in the cold. Christie thought he looked about seven. He had on nothing but a small, light jacket, and shoes that were old and torn.

As she approached him, he tried hiding his face and then began walking faster, almost like he was afraid or embarrassed for anyone to see him.

“Hello there, little boy. How are you this cold December day?”

He didn’t respond but kept walking; this time a little bit faster.

She decided to let it go; for these days if an adult acted too friendly with a small child, there could be disastrous consequences.

All day at work she kept thinking of the boy and how sad and lonely he looked.

After work, she finished up her chores, said goodbye to everyone, proceeded out the door and began her 20 minute walk back home.

About 10 minutes into the walk she saw the same boy walking her way. He looked much sadder than before, so she decided to speak to him once again.

“Hi there, little one. Take good care, be safe and keep warm!”

He stopped in his tracks, looked up at her and with tears in his eyes replied, “Thank you for saying that. No one has ever said such words to me! I will always remember you; how you looked at me and that you cared, even though you don’t know me.”

And with that, he walked away; his steps much lighter than before.

Years later, Christie was going to college and working part-time as a teacher’s aide, with middle school students. She loved working with the children and was hoping that her encouragement and teaching skills were helping the struggling students.

As she approached a boy who was new to the class, he suddenly looked up from his work, recognized that it was the woman he saw that cold December day years ago and said, “I know you! You’re the lady who said hello to me and wished me well.”

He asked her to come closer, for he wanted to tell her something in private. 

“Lady, what you said to me that day I never forgot. I come from a broken home and that day my mother left my dad and I thought that there was nothing to live for. I was even thinking of running away or causing harm to myself and then I remembered your kind words…….I want you to know that my name is Jeremy and that I’m doing much better now.”

Christie just smiled and with tears in her eyes said, “Precious Jeremy! My name is Christie Knowles and you’ve made me happy, too.  I was feeling low that day, too until I saw your face…You certainly helped me, too!”

So from that day on, Christie knew that one of her “gifts of the spirit” was encouragement. As the years went by she learned that by encouraging others, she too was encouraged! And, the best part of all, she became closer to Christ.

And, isn’t that what being a Christian is all about?

 

 

Fading Memory

“Now where did I put my keys?” Janice was once again looking for her car keys and wanted to get going for her doctor’s appointment. It was ten-thirty and she was supposed to be there at ten.

It seemed to Janice that her memory was not as good as it used to be. She was only sixty and had always had a sharp, quick mind but something was happening; she was forgetting way too often. That’s why she was seeing the doctor on a cold, November day.

The keys were in a desk drawer in the living room; a place where she often put them. She also kept her keys inside her purse, in the center divider and on a table next to the front door.

“I’ve found you, once again!”

Hurrying to the front door, she opened and then quickly closed it. Her husband, Jim, had once again thoughtfully placed her car in front of the house, always wanting to make things easy for her. 

She sighed, “Thanks, Jim. You are still my Babe!” His thoughtfulness always amazed and surprised her; for he had been that way almost from the first time she met him.

“Now to the doctor’s!”

Driving to the medical building usually took ten minutes but today the traffic was bad and it took her almost a half hour to get there.

The minute she opened the door to her doctor’s, she heard, “Janice Goodwin?”

She could hardly catch her breath before replying, “I’m here!

She followed the nurse in and went through the normal ritual of having her blood pressure and pulse taken and other sundry questions.

About five minutes later Dr. Sue Long entered.

“Good morning, Janice Goodwin! How are “we” today?”

“Pretty good, I guess. Sorry I’m late…”

“No problem. Now, let’s see how you’re doing…”

After going through the usual routine, Dr. Long put down Janice’s folder and said, “Janice, I don’t want to alarm you, but last week’s test and what I found this morning, give me concern.”

“What do you mean, doctor? What have you found?”

“First the good news. You are in reasonably good physical health—all of your tests came back good but the bad news is that you appear to be in the first stages of Alzheimer’s. Now, there is no need for alarm yet because there are some new medications that have recently come out that will help quite a bit. But, we must get you started immediately on these meds and also I want you to see a nurse practitioner, who will show you some exercises—mind exercises—that will also help.”

“I appreciate your honesty and good information, Dr., but I haven’t seen anything in my mind or behavior that suggests Alzemhimer’s. I mean I forget once in awhile, but doesn’t everyone?”

“Yes, we all forget once in awhile but your tests have shown that sometimes you forget how a normal process goes….” That’s one of the signs. Of course, there are others but that gives us doctors a “red flag.” I will make out some prescriptions for you and I want you to fill them today..”

After the doctor visit was over, Janice went to her car and began driving home. As she drove she thought out loud, “I don’t have Alzheimer’s! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about! Surely, she’s exaggerating…”

Before going home, she went to the local convenient store and bought some groceries for dinner.

She got back into the car and began driving home. About half way there, she became confused. Something was wrong. All of a sudden, she didn’t know how to get back home. She pulled over and tried to calm down. She looked around but everything looked different; out of place.

She remembered her cell phone and began to dial….What was the number? Wasn’t it 545-5982? No, maybe it was 556-5928?

Surely it was God who came to the rescue, for her husband was driving down the same street, saw her, pulled over and gave her help….

It had to be God intervening because Jim always worked late but that day he felt a kind of “nudging,” a kind of push, to go home and be with his wife. 

Memory is a tricky and precious thing; something to treasure, always!

 
 

A Lonely County Road

It was about four months ago, late March, when I was on the way back from a trip to my parent's house, when I became stranded on a lonely country road in Ohio.

Being the oldest, I often make quarterly trips to my parent's home; making sure that they're alright--that they have what they need. They are in their eighties and have many medical concerns. They seldom ask for anything but my conscience pushes me to visit with them and I always feel better after the trip.

As I was saying, it was late March and I was on the way home from seeing them, when I heard a loud popping noise and I just knew that I had a flat tire.

I got out of the car and looked inside the trunk. I had a spare tire but not the jack. I sadly remembered that I loaned it to our neighbor the month before and he didn't return it.

So, I went back to the car and lifted the hood, hoping that a patrol car would come by and give me assistance.

I waited and waited but no one drove by and so, anxiety began to build. I tried called on my cell to get some road side assistance but the call just wouldn't go through. About two hours later and older and dilapidated car approached and as the car drove closer, I could see who was inside.

It looked like two men in their twenties and I could tell that they had been drinking. One on the passenger side rolled down his window and asked, "Need some help, lady? Notice you have a flat tire..."

I replied, "I'm fine, thanks. My brother will be by very soon. I just called him on the cell phone." (Was a lie, but I didn't want them to think that I would be alone much longer.)

It seemed to work because he replied, "O.K. lady. Take care!"

I don't know why, but I didn't believe him. I got back inside, locked the doors and began feverishly dialing again...

This time I dialed 911. The receptionist answered and took my information. She sounded groggy and indifferent; wasn't sure if she got the information or what she would do with it.

I stayed inside and as I casually looked into my rear view mirror, I saw the same old car with the two young men slowly approach. They were going very slow, as if they were a snake, creeping up on me--hoping that I wouldn't notice.

They were about thirty feet away from me when I saw a car come from the opposite direction, driving much faster. Soon, I could tell that it was a patrol car. I can't tell you how relieved I felt! As soon as the older car saw what was happening, they continued to drive; this time much faster. The patrol man got out of his car and a few minutes later, I was back on the road.

It felt wonderful being back on the road and going home. I was feeling great until I saw that old, dilapidated car in my rear view mirror. They must have followed me and now seemed very determined to reconnect with me.

I won't tell you how this story ended; only that those two are now in jail and will be for a very long time!

 

 

Sarah’s Sad State

Sarah was a happy girl; in fact, she had been happy most of her life. Why, when she was born everyone who looked at her, said, “What a happy looking baby!” As she grew older, many gave her the nickname of “Happy Girl.”

When she was a teenager and going to Valley View High, many of her friends upon seeing her would cry, “Hey Happy Girl, where are ya going to?” She would just laugh and reply, “Hey, I’m happy alright, how about you?”

And so, it was on a cool October day when Sarah found out something that made her very sad. Her good friend and next-door neighbor, Suzie Cumberland’s family was being transferred to Colorado, taking with her a friendship that began when they both were only six. What made it even sadder was Suzie and her family would be leaving a little before Thanksgiving.

It seemed as the days flew by that Sarah was not only becoming very sad but also sorrowful. Being an only child was highlighting her sadness; what would she do when Suzie was gone? 

Moving day for Suzie and her family came fast and Sarah looked from her upstairs bedroom window and watched the moving brigade. She had never seen so much expensive furniture in her life. She knew they had nice furniture but she was always busy talking with Suzie to really take a look at what they had. “So many chairs and huge beds,” she thought. Sure made their stuff look old and worn out..

As the moving out dwindled down, Suzie came over to say good-bye. She was crying and didn’t want to leave—especially her good friend, Sarah.

“I don’t want to leave you, Sarah! I mean I want to be with my family because I love them but I love you, too!” She stood crying, while her pony-tail bobbed in the wind.

Sarah was crying too and said, “I know, Suzie. I wish you didn’t have to go, too! But, I know you have to. You’ll write won’t you?”

“Sure, I’ll write…Will you write me back?”

“You bet I will…”

Soon, Suzie’s parents came out, made their last checks of the house, asked Suzie to come in the car and they all left…Suzie in the back waving frantically out the window…

Sarah felt so very sad; she thought she would never be “happy” again..

Several days later, Sarah was looking out her bedroom window at her friend’s home and saw something interesting but quite out of place.

Inside of a Maple tree standing free and tall in front of Suzie’s home, on a bottom limb she saw what looked like a medium-sized green bottle. It kind of looked like a soda bottle and she could tell that there was something inside of it.

She hurried downstairs, went outside and ran to the tree. She reached high for the bottle, struggling to reach it with her left hand, while balancing herself with her right hand. She finally got a hold of it and then pulled it to her.

The bottle was tapped with a cork; so she pulled on the cork and out it popped! Inside was a piece of white paper. She carefully pulled on it and gradually it came through.

Inside were written the words, “I will never forget you Sarah. You will always be my friend and I will write to you whenever I can…”

Those were the last words she would read from Suzie and she would never know why until five months later.

You see, five months later they were all found deep in the Colorado Mountains, dead and decaying. The police speculated that they were killed for no apparent reason, except to steal their car.

So, that note from Suzie was extra special to Sarah and brought no only sadness in losing her friend but joy that she something left of the friendship.

 

 

Suspicion

Elizabeth loved her sister, Erin but lately a coolness was developing between the two. When they were younger they had the most fun together—building snowmen in the winter and riding their bikes and swimming in the spring and summer. In their late teens, Elizabeth was suspecting that Erin was taking money from her purse. Money that she earned at a local fast-food joint. And, that wasn’t all; she noticed that some of her jewelry was missing. And, this was expensive jewelry that was given to her from her Aunt Julia. Erin had some expensive jewelry, too so there shouldn’t be any need to steal but, Erin was acting different.

It was on a lovely fall day, about a month after school began when the “incident” occurred.

It was four o’clock on a Tuesday and Elizabeth was sleeping. She was in a deep sleep but woke up when she heard a noise close by. She thought it was just thunder and turned over but the noise continued. Half asleep and half awake, she turned around and opened her eyes and saw her sister pilfering through her top drawer. She had her hands on one of Elizabeth’s expensive rings and was trying it on. She didn’t notice that her sister was now awake and continued with her search.

Seconds later, Elizabeth cried, “Erin, what are you doing?! Those are my things and I don’t appreciate you going through them!”

“What do you mean? I’m only going through this because I thought I mislaid my own jewelry yesterday. 

Still groggy, Elizabeth replied, “You think you mislaid your jewelry in my drawer? That sounds kind of stupid, Erin! And by the way, take off that ring! That is mine…”

“So what! I just didn’t want to lose it for you…Here, see, I’m putting it back.”

“Thank you! Now, go back to bed. It’s only four in the morning and we’ve still got two more hours before we get up. And, don’t let me catch you doing that again, O.K.?”

“Yes, big sister! Will do as you say…”

Both returned to their beds and all was quiet until the alarm went off at six that morning.

At breakfast, no one spoke. School went as usual for both and at the end of the day, after dinner, Elizabeth decided to have a talk with Erin.

Upstairs, Elizabeth broke the ice, “Erin. We need to talk. This incident that happened this morning, that’s not like you. We’ve always gotten along and I want you to tell me why you did this!”

Erin dropped her eyes to the floor and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that. It was so wrong of me. I guess I’m jealous of you, Elizabeth. You have it all—brains, beauty—all the guys at school that you want…I don’t seem to be going anywhere.”

Elizabeth looked sad because she loved her sister and noticed for some time that Erin didn’t have an interest in her studies or her appearance. So she replied, “Erin, I don’t have it all. Yes, I do well with my studies but only because I study hard. And as far as my looks, I’m no prettier than you but I take care of myself—try to wear clothes that make me look good and fix my hair. Believe me, I don’t have many boyfriends and I’ve seen many of them looking at you! So, sister dear, you have more than you think and could have even more, if only you work a little harder. I love you and let’s work this out!”

Erin said very little, walked toward her sister, hugged her and said, “Love you Lizabeth. Thank you for your wise words.”

Who would have guessed that years later they would become the best of friends—each with a good life, knowing that they could count on each other for advice and love.

 

 

Soul

Jerry had been living “high on the hog,” for a long time and it seemed that there was no end to his desire for the pleasures of life. Thirty-five years old, married and the father of two little boys and a good provider, he felt that he was doing everything right. Yes, time and money were on his side.

But, what most people didn’t know about Jerry, including his wife, was that he was having an affair with a married woman and working some underhanded business deals—both of which, unfortunately would come to a sad end.

Most of all, the really sad thing about all of this, was that Jerry had no clue of what was coming down the road.

He had plans to meet with Mary, his lover, tomorrow evening and the day after, a business deal appointment that would, he hoped, make him a very wealthy man.

The day to meet his lover started off as usual, breakfast with the family, then some quality work at his firm until six and then the ride to Emeldo’s, the restaurant on the west side of town where he would meet and dine with Mary.

It was on the ride to Emeldo’s—that’s when everything changed. The drive began calm and routine but soon he noticed that someone was following him and way too close. He sped up, hoping that he could leave the somewhat obnoxious and “pushy” driver behind but found that that only made the driver even more hostile.

Soon, the driver behind got close enough to jab his back bumper. Seconds later, he did it again…

The third time he slammed into Jerry’s bumper was forceful enough to shove Jerry into a deep ditch; his head hitting the dashboard and soon blood began flying everywhere.

Then, with blurry eyes he looked up and out the car window and saw a refection of himself looking back at him with a look of great sadness and doom. There were two angels on each side of his reflection but there was no radiance or goodness in either of them. Right then, Jerry knew that it was too late. His soul was on its way to darkness. He had waited too long.

The driver who pushed Jerry into the ditch laughed all the way home. Now, Mary was all his!

 

 

Thanks Sweetie!

I was in a local grocery store the other day and was paying for my groceries when the cashier replied in a surly tone, “Thanks and have a nice day, Honey!” It irked me but I tried to push it out of my mind.

I’m sixty years old and those callous remarks made me feel much older. I’m not a vengeful person but I decided to try something, should that kind of incident happen again.

It was a week later and I was at the same grocery store and dealing with the same woman I had before. As she packed up the last item, she smiled and once again said, “Have a nice day, Honey!” She smirked the same smirk as before but this time I was ready…

I replied, “Thank you. Hope you have a nice day, too, Precious!” I was not surly but I smiled a very broad smile.

It was the look on her face that made my day! She looked stunned, embarrassed and a bit perturbed.

But, do you know what? I’ve been back to that store and have gone out her aisle several times and she has never once called me “Honey” again!

And, I don’t think our dear Lord would mind you or me replying in this manner because He, too, had moments when He was bold and upfront. Remember how he acted with the moneychangers in front of the temple?

As Christians we don’t always have to take rude or negative behavior. We can respond in an intelligent way, without being violent or obnoxious. Sometimes humor can diffuse or change behavior and that, my friend, is a good thing!

 

 

The Church’s One Foundation

Sheila stood hunched over, singing listlessly to the song, “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ Our Lord.” She couldn’t hold back the tears because her husband, Ted, died six months ago from leukemia and beautiful memories of their relationship were flooding her brain.

Church ended and she began her one mile walk home. In her mind, the song began playing once again. “What was it about the song that got to her so?” As she continued her walk, the lyrics played once again….

“The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.

She is his new creation; by water and the Word.

From Heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride,

And with His blood He bought her

And for her life He died..”

“His blood He bought her…” Yes, it was those five words that stirred her soul and brought on those tears. That’s what Ted died from, cancer of the blood. And right before their fortieth anniversary! She just couldn’t get over the fact that God took him before he had a chance to enjoy retirement and their anniversary.

Ted worked for twenty years at First National and was just beginning to enjoy retirement; but four months into retirement, he got the awful news of cancer during a routine checkup. Childless, they were closer than most married couples and with him gone, she had no idea how to live.

St. Anthony’s was always a place of peace and respite from the world but now it had become a bittersweet memory of all the times they worshipped together.

Then she began thinking of Ted and what his last words were to her, “Honey, I want you to go on and be happy and if you find someone to love and be loved, go for it! I don’t want you ‘mooning’ over me when I’m gone. I’ll be in Heaven getting things ready for you and I’ve already made a request to God that we be together with whatever projects He wants us to do…So, be happy, and know that I will be, too.”

Those words haunted her but they were beginning to give her some comfort, for she knew he was in Heaven and with his persuasive ways, had already set up a nice place for both of them.

All through the following week the song took on new meaning and she began singing it with a lighter heart…

The next Sunday she sat down in the same pew she and Ted always sat in and waited for the sermon to begin. A few minutes later she decided to knell down and give her Sunday morning prayer. She prayed, “Dear Lord I miss and love Ted so much but I just know that he’s in your loving arms, happy and making a place for me. Take good care of him and please Lord help me to start living again; for I know that you and Ted want that for me. Thank you and praise you! Amen.”

The service began and soon Father Flanders was giving his sermon. About half way through a man walked in, saw that a space was empty next to her and whispered, “Would you mind if I sit here?”

At first she was stunned at his presence because she was thinking of Ted and how she missed him but replied, “I guess so…Sure, that’s fine.”

After the service, she saw him again outside the church, standing by himself, looking lost and alone. She decided to approach him…

“Good morning, I’m Sheila Cunningham. I’ve never seen you before; may I ask your name?”

He replied, “No problem. I’m Ted Burnstein and I’m new to this area.  My wife just died from cancer two months ago and I wanted to be in church to pray. Nice to meet you…”

 

The Family Home

Sandra and Bill finally had the home of their dreams. It had taken them fifteen years to save enough money to buy the home but today was move-in day and they were joyful! Their very own home and a day they would never forget.

It seemed so long ago the memories of where they used to live—a Children’s Home on the east side of town. They were so young then—Sandra ten and Bill, only eight. Both had been abandoned by their parents and at that time, was the only place that would take them in.

It was the early 70s and many in America were in turmoil over high gas prices, the war in Viet Nam and what was then considered, high food prices. The divorce rate was high and living together was becoming more acceptable. Foster’s Children’s Home was one of the very few places where a child like Sandra and Bill could live, except of course, for the many foster care programs springing up almost everywhere.

It wasn’t long after Sandra and Bill met, when they became fast friends and were seldom lonely like so many others at the Home. As they aged, they became close and found that they had a lot in common. Both enjoyed collecting rocks and kept a diary of daily events. After high school they married and worked hard so that one day they would have a home of their own, a home of privacy and beauty.

That day had finally come and the three-bedroom, two baths, with many accessories had become a wonderful reality for two who had so little in their young lives, with longings that festered in the quiet of their souls.

As Sandra viewed the home now filled with many boxes and furniture, she was in awe with how much room they had. With their children Millie and Tod now grown and out in the world, it would be a home just for the two of them.

As she gazed into the kitchen, filled with modern appliances and everything gleaming, she recalled an incident that occurred many years ago in the kitchen of the Children’s Home. She happened one day to walk into that old, decapitated kitchen in the middle of the day and saw the cook preparing the day’s dinner.

She asked for a snack and the cook, a middle-aged woman named Connie replied, “Now Sandy, we just had lunch. You couldn’t possibly be hungry now! I’m busy preparing for dinner and I just don’t have time to fix you anything and besides, John Crawmer, the man who runs this place absolutely forbids me from doing anything like that! Now, go skedaddle!”

Sandra must have looked so very sad and hungry that shortly after Connie spoke those words she whispered, “Look, I’m going to do something I shouldn’t do and I might get in trouble if I’m caught but I’ve been where you’re at now and I’ll make this one exception. Go to the frig and bring out the cheese. It’s wrapped in aluminum on the second shelf. I’ll slice you a piece.”

Sandra brought out the cheese and Connie went to one of the kitchen’s drawers and brought out a clean, sharp knife. Carefully, she cut a nice-sized piece for the hungry girl.

She handed her the cheese and Sandra stepped back a few steps, stood at the end of the long table and with deep appreciation showing in her blue eyes, smiled and said, “Thank you, Connie!”

Years later after leaving the Home, Sandra heard similar tales from others about Connie, the cook. She never forgot the woman’s kindness and as she looked one again at her new kitchen, she knew that whoever came to this kitchen would never leave hungry or leave without knowing the story of Connie, the lovely and caring cook of The Home.

 

A Day in the Country…

A week off! After almost two years of steady work, helping out my parents and making sure that Jimmy, my five year old son was healthy and well, I finally got my boss to give me a whole week’s vacation!

I love working as a computer analyst at Corp International, but enough is enough and besides, the weather was wonderful and I wanted to take Jimmy to a beautiful park, just five miles away from where we live.

After getting some work done inside our home, I grabbed our cooler with some delicious sandwiches inside, made sure Jimmy was ready and then we were off!

As we pulled out of the drive way we saw our neighbor, James Whitfield, {b}an elderly man {/b} who lived by himself in  the neighborhood, and a very fast {b}chipmunk {/b} making its way toward Mr. Whitfield’s huge elm tree. Both Mr. Whitfield and the {b} chipmunk {/b} looked like they were on a mission—a mission to enjoy the day.

We continued our drive and soon found ourselves at the park. There were many cars and people there and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves—laughing and relaxing.

The {b} sandbox {/b} was empty, except for a little girl, who seemed to be having a wonderful time, filling up her pail with sand and making small mounds out of the sand and laughing each time she made one.

Jimmy almost ran to the {b} sandbox {/b} and behind him, I quickly followed.

It was a glorious day and everyone seemed so happy. I sat close by as Jimmy played with the sand and I noticed that he and the little girl quickly began making small mounds of sand and laughing all the way…

About an hour later an older boy arrived with his father and from the very beginning, I could tell he was going to be a problem. He walked over to Jimmy and the little girl, pointed at them and began laughing. It wasn’t a friendly laugh, but a sarcastic and rude laugh.

The strange and mean acting little boy’s father left, once he saw that someone older—me—was there.

The boy continued to be rude and was began pushing Jimmy and the little girl.

Well, I wasn’t about to stand for that, so I thought of what to do. I’m not normally a vengeful person, so I asked politely at first, “Please stop that! You could hurt them!

He looked at me, smiled sarcastically and began pushing the two children again.

I remembered that I had {b} a rubber band {/b} inside my purse, so I took it out and positioned it like I used to when I was in elementary school, pulled back part of t he rubber band, aimed it at the boy’s lower left leg and fired!

He yelled, looked around, trying to find out who did it, but could see no one. I, of course, was standing close by and looking totally innocent and said, “Problem? Is there a problem?

He began to cry and yelled, “Daddy! Daddy! Someone hit me!

That was the last I saw of the little tyke and once again Jimmy and the little girl had peace and resumed their beautiful piles of sand…..

 

All rights reserved to: Copyrighted 2008 to Toni Star

Note: All writings in this book were published in Faithwriter’s except for the last three.
All rights are now reverted to the writer, Toni Star

 

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